Long before we launched SarasotaFoodies.com, traipsing hither and yon, savoring and blogging on the amazing local culinary scene, Jill and I were enamored of arguably the hippest restaurant in Sarasota at that point – Bonefish Grill on Tamiami Trail. I can safely say we ate there at least once a week, celebrated birthdays, and enjoyed countless happy hours with friends and co-workers.
A personal flashback to the year 2000 – a few friends and I made a point of stopping by Bonefish on their very first night of operation (undoubtedly the slowest night the place ever saw.) I took one look at the chic décor, the innovative menu and the price points, and declared that Bonefish Grill was a “seafood Outback!”
The Bonefish Grill on Tamiami was only the second location to open, and lo and behold, those Bloomin’ Brands folks who own Outback Steakhouse obviously overheard me (yeah, right) and soon partnered with the ownership, taking the fabulous blueprint of “our” Bonefish Grill and ran with it, even opening a second Sarasota location off University Parkway.
On a recent “Throwback Thursday” Jill and I decided to check out the newly renovated Bonefish Grill on N. Tamiami, and were once again impressed by the fresh new décor and the revamped menu. I’m happy to say Bonefish offers an assortment of ever-changing fresh, seasonal dishes, while wisely keeping some of the brilliant items that made Bonefish a front-of-mind dining destination. Seriously, can you even count how many restaurants offer a copycat version of Bonefish’s legendary Bang Bang Shrimp?
We were led to a prime table (where the light is perfect for photos,) and promptly greeted by our server Megan, who’s clearly loves her role in creating a great guest experience. Jill accepted Megan’s suggestion of a Fresh Pear Martini, with half of a freshly muddled pear, Absolut Pears Vodka, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, a splash of lemon juice, and garnished with an edible pansy. In this day and age of delicious craft cocktails, Bonefish Grill is obviously not taking a back seat to anyone. This was orchard-to-table goodness in a stemmed glass!
It was appetizer time, and since steamed mussels are on a short list of my very favorite things, I was happy to see the Mussels Josephine still on the menu. There are a myriad of ways these mollusks can be served, but the broth that Bonefish serves is second to none. I’ve never been able to nail all of the ingredients of their sweet and savory broth, but let’s just say it’s on the tip my tongue, and I’m loving it! Our server Megan explained that I’m not the only fan of the broth, telling us that several of her regular guests ask her to pack up any remaining broth to go home with them. “They pour it over pasta the next day,” Megan explained. This, I have to try!
We were also thrilled to see an old favorite making a “throwback” appearance on the list of specials; one of Bonefish’s very first appetizers, the Saucy Shrimp. We both commented on how great it was to enjoy this classic dish again: juicy Gulf shrimp in a lime-garlic sauce with sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese, garnished with fresh scallions. I don’t know any place that’s been able to copy the unique Mediterranean flair of this shrimp dish!
Having finished a glass of wine, Megan suggested I may enjoy the Fall Apple Martini- a “welcome-to-the-season” concoction of apples soaked 3 days in vodka, finished with a little honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You know what they say about “an apple a day”… after a few sips, I definitely felt better.
When it came to the main event, I simply could not resist the sound of the Scampi-Style Snapper + Shrimp! The oak-grilled snapper showcased just the exact amount of smokiness, and was topped with pan roasted shrimp, grape tomatoes bursting with fresh flavor and Jasmine rice, all doused with a white wine scampi sauce. And huge kudos to the kitchen on the perfectly prepared green beans, which couldn’t have been more crisp and fresh if just prepared at home, let alone a high volume establishment!
Jill took a land-and-sea tack to mix things up, and ordered the Sirloin and Crab Cake Dinner. Now even though her juicy sirloin was expertly grilled to a medium rare, Jill declared the crab cake just may have stolen the show on that plate. The spicy remoulade complemented both the beef and crab cake, and the steamed spinach and jasmine rice were excellent sides to balance everything out.
There was a time when we never had room for dessert when we ate out. Nowadays, with a little gustatory restraint (a.k.a. “could you please pack this up for lunch tomorrow?”) we willingly order something sweet to finish up.
Since Megan has been spot-on all evening, we asked her to suggest which dessert to order, knowing we may want to share. Clearly she’s heard that request before, suggesting , their espresso martini (in lieu of coffee – right?) and a slice of Jen’s Jamaican Coconut Pie.
It’s no exaggeration to tell you that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better espresso martini anywhere, and the coconut pie? This pie was divinely elevated with a creamy coconut custard filling, fresh-whipped cream, toasted coconut and the bestest Myers Rum sauce we could have asked for. (It’s true. . .we asked for more the rum sauce!)
Megan told us that the recipe for Jen’s Jamaican Coconut Pie came from one of the original owner’s wives, and there was a brief moment where Bloomin’ Brands considered removing the dish off the dessert menu. Fortunately, Megan, and
many customers, let their voices be heard, and this luscious, creamy, dreamy, I-thought-I-was-too-full-for-dessert is back on the menu. Thank goodness!
Many thanks to the folks at Bonefish Grill for encouraging your chefs to amp up the flavor profile of your dishes at Bonefish Grill. The regular introduction on new, seasonal flavors keeps your menu exciting, and your famous dishes, like Bang-Bang Shrimp, Mussels Josephine and Jen’s Jamaican Coconut Pie, keep your regulars happy, and bring past guests back for more.
And the new décor? You had us at “Hello! Welcome to Bonefish Grill!”