Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cape Coral Bonefish Grill Restaurant Review

We came to Bonefish for the music, and the seafood, too, and left, well fed and happy. Friends complained for years that Cape Coral was overlooked by "better" restaurants. There wasn’t much opportunity for local good priced good food. Popular places soon popped up, like Timbales' tasty Puerto Rican dishes, Outback’s Aussie style steaks, and Carrabba’s Italian, close together along Pine Island Road, to meet the need. Bonefish Grille has now arrived.

Nancy, my Cape Coral friend, decided we should try the” new kid in town”-her first Bonefish Grille. We arrived Weds. at 7 pm to avoid a weekend crowd. Nancy’s face lit up when she held the front door's handle, and realized it was a sculpted metal bonefish, and her smile rarely left her face as the evening went on. We recognized another entering couple, and were ready for great food and company.

You couldn't miss friendly greeter Sean O’Keefe, the Managing Partner, at the door. We learned about his restaurant background and about Bonefish Grills. There’s 40 Bonefish Grills in Florida, and over 100 more, across the country, from Seattle to Asheville NC, and Baton Rouge to Buffalo, NY. Who knows- world traveling Matt Laurer or Asheville's Amariel Holz (aka Alexandra Sarah Briggs) may jet in with their entourages, parking their gleaming Chinook motor homes at your Bonefish Grill. Please be cool though, pass on asking them for autographs!

Bonefish's Bar Main Dining Room
We shared the dishes, starting with the Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad ($12.9 below), with the green chimichurri sauce kicking up the tender salmon just a touch. The salad has chunks of goat cheese, fennel, bok choy, tomatoes, and the citrus herb vinaigrette was light. One person said “This is a tasty healthy dinner, and pretty, just like in the magazines!”

Next were two cups of Corn chowder and lump crab (5.7), creamy, and truly with lumps of crab, not the shredded claw or fake "surimi" that we’ve had at other, “finer” places. Emboldened by this, we shared an order of the Maryland crab cake dinner (16 below), a great price for two cakes filled with lump meat, and scant filler-check out the photo below!. We don’t as many lumps in "lump" crab cakes at many Naples restaurants. This can be a $10 appetizer too.

The Hypnotiq Breeze Martini (7.3) with Hypnotiq, Bacardi Coco, and pineapple juice came with a blue glow stick, For contrast, we had the sweeter Ocean Trust Mango Martini (7.9), with Absolut Citron vodka, muddled mango, orange, and a twist. We like the drink, and $1.00 goes to the Ocean Trust Foundation for its good works (oceantrust.org). There’s also six varieties of hot tea, with the leaves not in a bag, but in this pyramidal container that’s pretty as a picture.I liked the Singapore Calamari (6.9), a big portion of very tender yet crisp calamari, thin green and red pepper strips and sliced onion lightly batter fried, and served with a spicy sauce that seemed to combine the Pan Asian Sauce with the Bang Bang Shrimp’s spicier sriracha- based sauce. Nancy, who didn’t like squid when tried at other places,was game for a try. She really liked the round calamari after an initial sample, quickly claimed all of the round ones as her "reward" for being so brave, and the rest of us happily shared the crunchier tentacles. Win-win.I’ve enjoyed the signature Bang Bang shrimp, and this time tried the Bang Bang Tacos (8.9). Who’da thunk of that? Denise really liked it, for its overall lightness-the spicy shrimp were balanced by the crunch of the taco, the cool sour cream, lettuce and tomato. I, on the other hand, prefer the heat of the regular Bang Bang Shrimp, so there are now two Bang Bang styles, to suit different folks.The Grilled Shrimp and Scallops (15.9) were marinaded in citrus, oak grilled, seared, and came out tender, topped with a citrus glaze. Yes! They were nestled with a mango salsa with red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro and a sweet and sour sauce. We were happy with the Herbed jasmine rice as our included side. I’ve made a tropical variant of this combo at home from my mango tree and Key West shrimp, however while I sometimes overcook grilled seafood. Bonefish doesn’t!Ashton, our server, was friendly and professional, and a “people person”- part psychologist, able to first get a feeling of what different people liked, then hone in on starters and main dishes that we all happily agreed to share. For some turf, we shared the Pork tenderloin Piccata (13.9), and were impressed by the hot plate, the inch and a half tenderloin, properly pink, not red in the center, and the mushroom, melted cheese, bacon and marsala topping. Yes, there’s a bit more ingredients on every item than foretold in the menu-it’s a welcome surprise to get more than promised, in many ways, at Bonefish. The side of Potatoes au gratin was both crunchy with the crumbs and lusciously creamy with the melted cheeses-we fought over this! The Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet was strong enough, not too strong, to bring out the tenderloin’s best.

We paired this with a tender Maine lobster tail, that defined the perfect cooking time for lobster, and it was nicely displayed, with warm butter in a heated goblet.. I enjoyed a New Zealand Brancott Sauvignon Blanc (8.5) with this and the fish.

One diner took in the cloth napkins, white jackets of the servers, the subtle lighting, the metal mangrove sculptures, and just the overall warm polished yet casual setting and blurted out “I can’t believe I’m still in Cape Coral! I mean, this is so much more sophisticated, and the food is just so much better than what’s been around here.”

The Longfin tilapia (14.3) with the mixed seafood and crabmeat topping, had the bonus of a topping beurre blanc with capers, giving a slightly salty ocean reminder. The strips of grilled vegetables worked well with the tender tilapia.

We specifically listened to and enjoyed the music, something we can be oblivious to, at other places. The great mix of tunes with Jacob Dylan, Seal, Brazil- by Cornelius; it goes on and on. The Bonefish folks have a passion for fine food, wine, and carefully chose a variety of very good music. On Ovation TV, Bonefish Grill's “Notes From the Road”, artists tour and record at different Bonefish Grills across the country.
Wish they’d sell CD’s of these selections. Ashton said the music mixes are fed from the main office, and the tunes vary with the time of day.

The Bonefish restaurants feel like independents, to me, and to others who grudgingly agree, who otherwise avoid chains. Times are changing, and people support reasonably priced restaurants, regardless of ownership. Kenny Rogers, Macaroni Grill, and even Starbucks, dwindle or die when too slow to change.

We were more than full, and still made room for forkfuls of the HUGE Macadamia nut brownie, with a generous pour of seductively thick raspberry sauce, and Blue Bell ice cream (5.5). We’d have happily paid twice for this delicious portion. The Key lime pie was properly tart, with a nice graham cracker crust and roasted pecan topping (5.5). A chocoholic, I preferred the brownie, and Nancy loved the Key lime pie.


Two Key Lime Pies for a Birthday Girl
We had more than enough food for four people, and the bill came to $106. That's right, four for $106! We easily pay twice that in Naples and some high end Lee County spots, and do not get the proper cooking of fish and meats which Bonefish consistently serves. Cape Coral, you done good-you now have the real deal, at the right price, too.

900 SW Pine Island Road, Cape Coral, 239-574-1018

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