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Centreville's Bonefish Grill Tries Harder

Free appetizers make long wait more palatable

I visited Centreville’s on the first warm evening this spring, and watched crowds piling in to put their names on the waiting list and then turn around to mill around outside.

Bonefish does not have much standing room, so the restaurant has expanded their new front outdoor patio, added some tables and chairs, and offered free samples of their signature hors d’oeuvres to keep the masses happy while they wait. They even sent wait staff roaming among the crowd with platters of Bang Bang shrimp, Saucy Shrimp, and fried calamari. 

Good thing for Bonefish that they kept customers plied with free hors d’oeuvres. The long wait may have tempted patrons to leave and walk across the street to Sweetwater Tavern and see how long the wait was there. But with plentiful complimentary appetizers and nice weather, no one was leaving.

Our wait was a bit longer because we had a crew of 11.  Unlike many area restaurants that have mostly fixed booths, Bonefish can handle large groups because they have the flexibility to push as many tables together as needed. It’s always a bummer to get to a restaurant with a large group just to be told you must split up at different tables.

One notable thing about all of the food at Bonefish is that hot dishes are served on heated plates, and cold dishes are served on chilled plates. I love that. I am a ‘hot-food-should-be-served-hot and cold-food-should-be-cold’ person.  There is nothing worse than lukewarm food served on a cold plate, and Bonefish goes out of its way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Appetizers at Bonefish are excellent. Since we’d already tried their calamari and Pan-asian sauce during our wait, we knew they were a good bet. The calamari we ordered was very crispy and lightly fried, and was served very hot. The sauce was wonderful creamy mix of ginger and soy, slightly sweet, which enhanced the flavor of the calamari perfectly.

I’ve also been told their Wagyu Beef and Ginger Dumplings are delicious. These are house-made with American-style kobe beef, pan-seared with crispy shallots and Thai peppers and soy sauce. And of course there’s the Bang-Bang shrimp. The kids couldn’t get enough of the free samples, and we ordered more at the table. Bonefish really pushes these creamy-coated fried shrimp and people seem to love them.

Piled high on a bed of chopped lettuce, Bonefish’s famous Bang-Bang Shrimp are batter fried and then generously tossed in a thick, creamy, mayonnaise-based sauce.  The sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise and Thai chili sauce, and is rumored to have a touch of peanut butter added. Bonefish’s Bang-Bang shrimp are crispy, rich, decadent, and delicious. Half of my party ordered the popular appetizer as their entrée, so they clearly have mass appeal.

And, at under $10, its a bargain entree choice. They also offer them as an entree served in taco shells for the same price as the appetizer serving. But since you get twice as many shrimp in the appetizer serving, I don’t think I’ll be ordering the Bang-Bang tacos any time soon.

Entrees at Bonefish are hit and miss. Prices of entrees range from $9-28. The more reasonably priced “hand-held” items are burgers, fish and shrimp tacos, and fish and chips. The fish and chips are excellent, with large, white, meaty pieces of tempura-style fried fish and French fries, served piping hot in a brown paper cone with vinegar for an authentic touch. The burgers got thumbs up from the kids in my party.

Bonefish offers diners a choice of eight grilled seafood items and a choice of four sauces that can be ordered with any fish. By my calculations, this makes about 4.6 million potential different combinations and, quite frankly, I don’t want to work that hard when I dine out.

I mean, what if the chimichurri sauce doesn’t go well with the Snake River Rainbow Trout? Or what if the Mahi-Mahi and mango salsa sauce is just so-so? I don’t know about you, but I want professional chefs planning my dishes. How can a diner choose which sauce they prefer on which fish when  they’ve never tried that sauce before? Of course my mom solves that problem by ordering all the sauces on the side, not a bad solution. I’m not sure that’s what Bonefish had in mind when planning their menu, but can you blame her?

I ordered Imperial Longfin. It was pan-seared, baked, stuffed with shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, and topped with lemon butter. It was pretty good, although the lemon butter was creamy and had some kind of cheese added to it. The cheese was a little stringy, but overall it was a good dish. I just didn’t expect a creamy sauce. It was hard to distinguish the crab from the shrimp or the scallops, I would have preferred them whole instead of chopped. But still, it was fresh, hot and tasty.

Side dishes at Bonefish really need to be reworked. The steamed vegetable medley and other veggies are fresh but tasteless, the garlic whipped potatoes and potatoes augratin are too rich and gluey, and the rice is nothing to write home about. Again, we have a pairing problem. If you pick a too-rich side with a rich entrée, you go home feeling bloated.

Salads, on the other hand, are great. Served on a chilled plate, the house salad and citrus herb house dressing is delicious. It features Kalamata olives, hearts of palm, tomatoes, and fresh greens, all perfectly dressed. At less than $3 with an entrée, it’s a good deal. Several people in my party gave thumbs up to an entrée salad, the Florida Cobb Salad. It includes Jamaican jerk chicken, avocado, mango, tomatoes, Danish Bleu cheese crumbles and citrus herb vinaigrette. Their only complaint was the dearth of mango.

They also offer another entree salad, the grilled salmon and asparagus salad. It's served with pecan-dusted goat cheese, green beans, fennel, and tomatos. Again, it's dressed with the citrus-herb vinaigrette. They may as well use it, it's very good.

For dessert, we selected Key Lime Pie. It was fairly ordinary. If you’ve ever had Key Lime pie, you’ve had this one. But if you want a predictable dessert, go for it.  They also offer a coconut pie, macadamia nut brownie, and crème brulee. I’ve also had the crème brulee, and its good, but typical. If you like crème brulee, order it.

Centreville’s Bonefish Grill tries harder than other local Bonefish Grills, and for that it gets my vote. I would definitely return again, especially if I have a large party. They also have a very reasonably priced kids menu, although this is not really a kid-oriented restaurant. The youngest in my group had fun with crayons on the paper topped table cloth, so if your children are well-behaved go ahead and bring them along on your date night. Everyone will have fun.

-- Sharon West Sutton

Bonefish Grill is located at 6315 Multiplex Drive, Centreville, VA; 703-815-7427. They are open from Monday-Thursday 4 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 12 p.m. – 11:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Toby Smith April 16, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Too bad that the price increases do not mean better qualtiy... Trying harder?? Gee how about just better food and reasonable prices. Bonefish is just a trendy upper-end national "chain" restaurant that doesn't rate past 3 to 4 stars (out of five) for quality and service. A good trendy "seafood" restaurant is something like California Fish Grill in Southern CA - Los Angeles to Irvine. That is what I would invest in....

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