Invasion of the upscale chains part 1: Bonefish Grill

Note: Dennis Getto passed away more than 2 months ago.  Since then there have been no restaurant reviews in the Journal leaving a huge void in the Milwaukee food scene.  You would think they would let another food writer at least do it in the interim. It’s not rocket science. In the absence of a Friday restaurant review in the Journal, every Friday I will provide an unsatisfied public with a restaurant review until the Journal gets their shit together.  I am also starting a 5 point rating system.  Today I review a couple of chain restaurants in Brookfield, the Bonefish Grill and Bravo!.

Anyone who has travelled along Bluemound Road in Brookfield cannot help but notice the proliferation of upscale chain restaurants.  Flemming’s Steakhouse, Mitchell Fish Market, Carraba’s, and Bonefish Grill are the latest to line the street.  While some deride the influx of these chains, they are a fact of life and I think we will probably see more and more of them.  While I too would prefer to see more locally-owned restaurants the economic reality near Bayshore, Brookfield Square, and Mayfair malls is that the land prices are so high that no independent restaurateur can afford to locate there.   For the most part I think that chains play to the lowest common denominator and that is what is behind their tremendous success.  Create a menu that is affordable to the customer, appeals to most anyone, sounds exciting and different, and has large profit margins then place them in the middle of suburbia where parents with disposable income are supposedly too busy to cook (I think they are too lazy but that’s a whole other subject) and you have a goldmine.

Over the past couple months I have eaten at two of these chains, Bonefish Grill and Bravo! Italian Cucina and I have mixed opinions.  Part one of this review deals with Bonefish Grill.  Located adjacent to Carraba’s this place packs people in with their seafood specialties.  The interior is nicely decorated with dark woods and natural colors, much like every other mid-to-upscale chain.  It is actually quite nice inside.   We had a reservation and were seated within minutes of our arrival.  The server took our drink orders within a minute of us sitting down.  They have some decent beer selections including my choice, a Bell’s Amber on tap.   The wine list looked fairly decent as well. 

Bang Bang Shrimp

After we received our drinks we put in an order for Bang Bang Shrimp, which is one of their signature appetizers.   These medium sized gulf shrimp are coated with a crispy breading and tossed in this spicy sauce that seemed to have a hint of Sirhaca hot sauce in it.  They had a nice kick to them and some would call them really spicy.  I guess it depends on your tolerance for spicy foods.  Other appetizers include crab cakes, mussels, and calamari.

For entrees you can pick a grilled fish from their menu which includes Arctic Char, Walleye, Scallops and Shrimp, Tuna, Halibut, and a couple other options.  You then pick your sauce which can be lemon butter, Mediterranean Sauce, Warm Mango Salsa, or Pan Asian, which has soy, ginger and wasabi.  You also get seasonal veggies and your choice of garlic mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, angel hair pasta, Island Rice, and steamed vegetable medley.  They also have a saute menu with Pistachio Parmesan Rainbow Trout, Walleye Piccata and Shrimp Fettuccine.  There are also plenty of potions for the seafood-hater like steak, chicken, and pork chops. 

 I went with the Arctic Char which I had never had before.  I tried it with the Mango Salsa and the Island Rice which was white rice mixed with some fruit (I think) and cilantro.   I also had the corn chowder with lump crab.  The soup was really good and flavorful.  Not too thick and it had plenty of crab.  Considering you can add it to your order for under 3 bucks, I would highly recommend it.   The Arctic Char was expertly grilled resulting in a nice charred crust and moist flaky interior with a hint of wood smoke.  Arctic Char is very similar to salmon but a bit more flaky and has a more delicate flavor.  The mango salsa was a nice addition and added some acidity and sweetness to the rich taste of the fish.  The island rice was nothing to write home about but it wasn’t bad.  Some salt, lime and more cilantro would have helped a lot.  My wife had the Tilapia with the Mediterranean Sauce.  It was ok, but nothing special.  Tilapia does much better when used in recipes like fish tacos or stews.  Standing alone it is almost always mediocre. One of our friends had a Walleye special with artichokes which he said was very good.  The other friend had the shrimp and scallops with the pan Asian sauce which also received rave reviews, in fact she told us that is what she had the last time she visited and she liked it so much she had to have it again.

The service was excellent and our waiter was friendly and knew the menu inside and out.  They must have done some serious training since Getto reviewed the place in May. The food came out in a decent amount of times and our waiter made sure to stop by when our beer or wine glasses got below 1/4 full.  Sure there are better seafood restaurants in the area (one of my favorites is Fishbones in Delafield) but for a moderately priced chain restaurant (most entrees are 15-25 bucks) I think Bonefish does an admirable job.

EatWisconsin Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rating Guide: 0=Absolutely terrible, avoid at all costs, 1=Bad, 2=Mediocre/Average, 3= Admirable, 4=Excellent, 5=Sublime

Bonefish Grill is located at 18355 W. Blue Mound Road, Brookfield,WI 53045
(262) 797-0166. www.bonefishgrill.com

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