Bonefish Grill: Passionate anglers hoping you are their catch of the day

Deidre Schipani – Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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Brad Nettles/Staff
The bar of Bonefish Grill on International Boulevard in North Charleston.

Bonefish Grill

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Bonefish Grill

CUISINE: Seafood with a global spin

REPRESENTATIVE DISH: Bang Bang Shrimp

ADDRESS: 5041 International Blvd., North Charleston

PHONE: 747-7735

WEB: BonefishGrill.com

BAR: Full-service bar; $5 fresh cocktails, Happy Hour

HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday brunch; 4-10:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 4-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday

FOOD: 2 1/2

SERVICE: 3

ATMOSPHERE: 2 1/2

PRICE: $-$$

COSTS: Appetizers $3.90-$16.70; salads $4.90-$13.90; soups $2.90-$6.50; sandwiches $9.70-$15.30; entrees $14.30-$27.30; desserts $5.90-$6.20; children’s menu; daily specials sheet, bar menu

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes, if one eats seafood

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes

PARKING: Lot

OTHER: Facebook, Twitter; “Tuesday Tales” of value-priced lobster, Wednesday Bang Bang shrimp $5; local craft beers, $5 classic cocktails daily; Happy Hour menu, outdoor dining, patio seating, music program supporting emerging artists; newsletter “BFG Insider”; gift cards; no online ordering; no delivery services, bg0507@BonefishGrill.com; reservations suggested

Few and far between are the restaurants that make the pages of The New York Times, The London Times, The World Herald, The Guardian, and The Omaha World Herald all on the same day.

But Bonefish Grill was so recognized on Aug. 30, 2006, when renowned investor Warren Buffet and his longtime companion, Astrid Menks, celebrated their marriage at their local BFG in Omaha.

There may be significant zeroes between your net worth and that of the founder of Berkshire Hathaway, but you, too, can eat at a Bonefish Grill now open in North Charleston.

This chain is part of the Bloomin’ Brands casual dining concept restaurants and includes Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and Roy’s. It counts 1,400 properties in 48 states and 20 countries.

In 2012, Nation’s Restaurant News honored John Cooper, president of Bonefish Grill, as an Operator of the Year. No small achievement in the current surge of restaurants.

Bonefish Grill got its start in St. Petersburg, Fla. Founders Tim Curci and Chris Parker named their restaurant after the Florida game fish, abula vulpes, or the bonefish, known as the “grey ghost of the flats.” It’s a fish caught for sport, not dining.

The partners committed themselves to developing a restaurant of simplicity and consistency, guided by sustainable fishing practices, species authentication programs, mercury awareness and a mindset of “embrace happiness” that has been registered by the company as “Happiness Here.”

Simple lines define the architecture of the boxy buildings with khaki stucco and taut black awnings.

Curci and Parker took aim at designing a sophisticated bar with customized shelving, blown-glass lanterns, wood floors and custom artwork. The founders’ goal was that of “polished casual,” and they succeeded.

The staff is outfitted in chef’s jackets, part of their philosophy of “chef-coat service,” and the look feels forced (and frequently ill-fitted). The employees are considered “anglers” — sharing the owners’ passion for BFG.

This franchise has built a solid menu where you can coordinate the flavors of Asian dumplings, Singapore calamari or Thai shrimp with jasmine rice and simply steamed vegetables. Or should culinary Sirens beckon you to the Mediterranean, “saucy shrimp” with feta and kalamata olives partners well with the house salad tossed in a citrus vinaigrette and wood grilled tilapia.

Kudos for offering portion controlled wood-fired grilled fish options. This menu features year-round staples such as Atlantic salmon, swordfish and rainbow trout. Carnivores will find simply prepared steaks, chicken Marsala, pork chops and pasta.

“Handhelds” or sandwiches are served on buttery soft brioche buns and a healthy order of fresh greens can accompany your American-style Kobe beef burger or spicy Bang Bang tacos. Look for the starfish on the menu highlighting “popular guests choices.”

Vegetables are deftly cooked. Haricot verts would make any entremetier (vegetable cook) proud and the steamed vegetable selections maintained vibrant colors and vegetal flavors of broccoli and asparagus.

The seasonal selection of ratatouille was missing its quintessential eggplant ingredient but the squash, tomatoes, peppers and onion stew complete with Nicoise olives garnish served up a credible south of France tian.

Sauces are refreshingly free of butter and feature a simple mango salsa, Argentinian chimichurri and a pan-Asian soy-based sauce.

Flavored crumbs dust the mild flavored orange roughy and fried sage leaves hone the sweet edges of pumpkin-filled ravioli.

Fish steaks and fillets such as salmon, swordfish and tilapia were competently cooked, nicely crusted with char but the intensity of their flavors were absent, flavor ghosts like the restaurant’s namesake.

With such a polished operation, it was surprising that the sequencing of services fell flat. A hot soup and hot appetizer were served at different times. A sauce on the side was requested, but the kitchen sauced the dish anyway. Though corrected quickly, the fish then came with the wrong sauce on the side.

Our server was well-schooled and was quick to rectify the few missteps that occurred. A flotilla of servers sets sail on the dining room and their tasks could be better coordinated with clearing, bussing, beverage service and order runners.

The “happiness” effect was in full play during the times of our visit. The guests were having fun, getting “stung” by Bee’s Knees martinis, honoring a Dogfish Head Namaste, tossing down the Bang Bangs or cracking the caramelized crust on pumpkin creme brulee.

Bonefish Grill reeled them with the best bait in town, the promise of good times at the table with fair prices.