Feasting At The Bonefish

March 30 2006, 3:11 PM
I think I have a food hangover. Hubby and I checked out the new Bonefish Grill in Westminster last night, and I swear we ate nearly everything on the menu. I had to stay up late to digest my dinner (and many bites of his dinner, and our neighbors' dinners...) and I'd go back again tonight if I wasn't afraid that I might explode. Generally, I'm not a huge fan of national chain restaurants, and Bonefish has spread from Florida across the Southeast, East coast, and Midwest, and is just now getting to the western states. Then again, if they do it right (I'm thinking of the Capital Grille here) chains can offer some of the most consistent food and service around. Bonefish Grill is brand new here -- they just opened last Monday -- so we'll see how the consistency holds up, but last night's dinner was excellent. The specialty of the house is fresh grilled seafood, flown in and hand-cut daily. It's a spacious place, with an upscale casual decor of the nice-chain-restaurant variety, located in the Shops at Walnut Creek off 36 and 104th, just west of the Westminster Promenade. We arrived last night around 7 p.m. to meet our group, and were seated at one of three large community tables that separate the bar from a line of booths in the bar area, which is apart from the main dining room. The community tables rocked, and we met several interesting new people among the eight of us seated together. Good thing too; had we not been meeting a group which was already seated, we would have been looking at a 20 minute wait. Not a bad sign for a restaurant's third night of business. First order of business: cocktails. I ordered the house martini, with Stoli, champagne, a splash of cranberry and an orange twist. Tasty and light, it went perfectly with our seafood appetizers. Since it was our first visit, we proceeded to sample a ton of items, passing plate after plate around our large table. First and favorite on this list is the signature Bang Bang shrimp, lightly fried and coated in a spicy aioli cream sauce. I could have eaten the entire pile and called it dinner, and though it sounds very rich it was surprisingly light. I loved the sesame-coated ahi tuna, but hubby would have preferred it without the sesame coating (yes, he's crazy), and we all thought the bacon-wrapped sea scallops with mango salsa were divine. The calamari was just okay -- tender, not greasy, but not outstanding either -- but the lump crab cakes? Totally delish, just a bit crispy on the outside, well portioned and full of fresh lump crab meat. After the appetizer festival, I opted to skip the salad. Several others at our table proclaimed that the house salad, with hearts of palm, pine nuts and a citrus vinaigrette, was wonderful, but I wanted to save some room in my already-full tummy for dinner. This was the really fun part about Bonefish Grill; the menu lists 10 varieties of grilled fish, and any of them can be ordered alone or with one of four special sauces. The servers will happily make suggestions, but based on the many shared bites that were passed around our table (again with the beauty of the community table and friendly food-sharers), you really can't go wrong with any combination. Check out the list: Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, longfin tilapia, mahi mahi, sea scallops and gulf shrimp, Atlantic swordfish, Atlantic golden tilefish, ahi tuna, Chilean sea bass, or lobster tail. I opted for the Chilean sea bass with warm mango salsa; hubby ordered ahi tuna with Pan-Asian sauce. Each fish entree comes with a seasonal vegetable (sweet spaghetti squash last night) and one of their "awesome side items," which include garlic mashers, au gratin potatoes, angel hair pasta, island rice, or steamed veggies. (I chose the rice and hubby went for the potatoes, but the fish ruled the plate and I barely touched my sides.) My sea bass was delicious, flaky, and rich, and the mango salsa over the fish added a spicy-sweet tanginess that had me forking it in long after I had reached my food saturation point. Of course, a nice glass of Cambria chardonnay helped wash it down, and I took a few small breaks to sample the tuna and the delicate golden tilefish with lemon butter that my neighbor ordered (I am so getting that next time). We didn't save room for dessert, but someone at the table ordered one of everything for all of us to share. What could I do? I took a deep breath, and plunged in. The only disappointment of the evening was the creme brulee, with a too-runny consistency and only a hint of a carmelized sugar crust. Hubby went for the key lime pie and declared it his favorite dessert, and I fell in love with a chocolate macadamia nut brownie cake, smothered in nuts and raspberry sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream. Pure chocolate heaven. So. You can imagine why today I'm planning to take the pooch on a VERY long walk, and I think I'll be sticking to cereal and salad for my menu today. But it was worth it. Boy, was it worth it. We're already planning who to take with us for our next visit.