We don’t go in much for reviewing chain restaurants on Arkansas Foodies, because for the most part, we’d rather feature the one-of-a-kind places that are so common in Arkansas. It’s certainly not because it’s impossible to get a good meal at a chain, but most of you out there have eaten at enough Applebee’s and Red Lobster locations to know exactly what to expect when you pull up in the parking lot. Bonefish Grill in Little Rock is a really tasty exception to our “no chains” rule, and seeing as there are only two locations in Arkansas, Bonefish might as well be unique. Jess first tried Bonefish out in Colorado, but it was only recently that we made our way up to the Little Rock location, and after reading several reviews that all recommended the Bang Bang Shrimp, we felt almost obligated to start off with an order. The shrimp is lightly battered and fried, almost like a tempura batter, and served coated in a rich spicy sauce. If you like the spicy mayo and sriracha mixture that most sushi places use for their spicy rolls, you’ll love this shrimp. It was almost too rich for me, but I had to admit that it was a flavorful way to start the meal.
Another good appetizer, and one that suited my taste a little better than the shrimp, was the Ahi Tuna Sashimi, a lightly seared and thinly sliced portion of buttery tuna coated in sesame seeds and served with soy and wasabi. I will admit that I’m a bit of a raw tuna junky, and I don’t really take kindly to tuna that comes out rubbery and tasteless – this was neither. Meltingly tender and full of flavor, I really could have kept eating this to the point of embarrassing myself. If you’ve got someone in your party who is a bit squeamish about raw fish, order this dish – it will make an excellent introduction for them.
One thing I really like about the menu at Bonefish is that they have some really good dishes that are made for sharing. Our favorite is probably the Mussels Josephine, which I have to say is almost as good as the mussels we make for ourselves. These mussels are large and tender, and they are swimming in a buttery white wine broth with tomatoes and onions. Bonefish Grill has really good bread, too – and that bread coupled with this mussel dish is a good meal for two by itself. Don’t worry about being a bit impolite and soaking up all that sauce with your bread – that’s the only way to eat this dish.
As for an entrée, Jess’ choice was the Snake River Rainbow Trout, a light and flaky fish that I was pleased to see wasn’t overcooked on the grill. Bonefish has a choice of four topping sauces for your fish, and she picked the chimichurri, a mixture of olive oil, Italian parsley, garlic and red pepper. She thought it was pretty good, but I felt the sauce was a bit too heavy on the garlic and lacked the real subtlety needed for a fish like trout. They also offer a mango salsa, lemon butter, and a pan Asian sauce (finished with just a bit of wasabi cream). On the side, she had some nicely cooked haricots verts and a fresh salad of tomatoes and feta cheese drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were fresh and good, and the feta was pleasingly creamy without being overbearing with its salt. It was a pretty plate, and paired with the strawberry martini she was sipping on, brought a nice feeling of perfect cheer.
For my own entrée, I chose one of the specials of the night, a crisp-fried piece of monkfish served with rice and vegetables in a sake sauce – cleverly called The Drunken Monk. Monkfish is something I’ve read about for years but hadn’t ever had the opportunity to try – and now I can’t wait to try it again. I understand now why they call this fish the “poor man’s lobster,” as the flesh is creamy white and just slightly sweet to the taste. The tempura batter was crisp and good, and the rice and vegetables (which often are just an afterthought) were well cooked and tasty. I’d definitely try this again.
All things considered, Bonefish Grill is worth a try, even if you’re a little wary of eating out at chains. They have an extensive mixed drink menu, and although their draft beer selection was pretty slim, they did have Diamond Bear’s Pale Ale, so that’s good enough for me. Service is a bit odd, with multiple people showing up at random times to do things, but we never wanted for anything on either of our trips. Bonefish Grill is located at 11525 Cantrell Road in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, and they are open from 4:00pm-10:30pm Monday-Thursday, 4:00pm-11:30pm Friday and Saturday, and 4:00pm-10:00pm on Sunday. Enjoy!