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Bonefish Grill – Marlton, NJ

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You might have a bone to pick.

Bonefish Grill – Marlton, NJ 08053
600 Route 73 North
Meal: Dinner / Weekend / 730p
Price: $252 (Excluding Tip) for 8
Website: Bonefish Grill (select the Marlton store for its individual menu)

I’ve been waiting to check out the Bonefish Grill, as there are a couple of locations nearby my house. The family and I met up at the Marlton location for a post-birthday celebration and, of course, to see just how well the trendy seafood reseller would satisfy a large party with very diverse tastes. Would this fish sink or swim?

The Marlton location shares a larger structure with Flemingo’s next door (the entire building was previously occupied by the Lonestar Steakhouse), including a mid-size parking lot that on our particular Sunday night appeared more than adequate to handle volume for both restaurants. Bonefish is smaller than Flemingo’s, and for some reason had two outside ceiling fans hopelessly pushing air around in what was probably a mid 30-degree night (what a waste of energy!). The interior has a nice feel to it, but was very crowded and featured a fairly small bar. The wait staff all have button-up chef’s coats, which is a touch I enjoy.

As you’d expect, the seafood-heavy menu features lots of fresh fish and a couple obligatory chicken and beef options for ocean-dissenters. Prices at-a-glance are reasonable, but portions are generally small. We decided to start with appetizers of the bang bang shrimp and cajun chicken egg roll to share across the entire table. The shrimp was clearly the winner of the two choices, with an ample mount of general-tso-like shrimp on a bed of lettuce that could double as a small side salad. The egg rolls were a couple bucks cheaper than the shrimp, but seemed geared to impressing the restaurant goer with aesthetic appeal rather than real taste. I could easily order the shrimp appetizer as a dinner and would probably pass on the egg rolls next time around.

I downed a few draft beers at a clip of $3.50 each – not bad. For my entree, I tried the lobster thermidor dorado (mahi mahi in a lobster sauce with some lobster meat on top) in addition to selections from the table of the coconut shrimp, fish and chips, longfin tilapia, grouper, and pantagonian toothfish. Never heard of the toothfish? Don’t worry, the Bonefish manager didn’t either. The toothfish is actually the real name of what is called a ‘chilean sea bass’ in the United States. It’s a fish that seafood watch suggests to avoid due to sustainability concerns, but I wasn’t able to convince my own brother to pass on it. Upon asking the store manager why they are choosing to sell a fish that is overfished and has a very nasty bycatch (other things that die when the toothfish is caught), he stared at me blankly and gave me a lame response that he didn’t believe Bonefish would be selling anything that was of questionable sustainability. Corporations never do anything bad! How could I forget? He was completely uneducated on his own products and in my opinion, needs a considerable amount of training. In fact, I would say our waiter was substantially more versed in not only the menu, but also company policies. If I were the owner/operator of this Bonefish, I would promote our waiter to store manager and demote the existing store manager to cleaning the bathrooms.

Leaving the soapbox, the food was generally good, with most complaints regarding the portion size. Indeed, my lobster thermidor dorado was delicious, but a fairly small portion for the $18 price tag. Similarly with the grouper ($20) and so-called ‘sea bass’ ($25), I thought the cuts were just too tiny for the premium pricing. Of notable exception was the fish and chips my mother ordered, which were made with tilapia and featured 3 large fried filets on an adequate bed of french fries. For $11, I think she got a much better value than the rest of us. If it’s on the menu next time, I’d very much recommend it.

With the exception of the clueless store manager, service was exceptional throughout. We had a large table and at various points interacted with four different wait staff; we like that they have a team-oriented attitude and weren’t discouraged from helping us even if we weren’t their original table. Had we been seated anywhere off the walls of the dining room, we’d probably be very uncomfortable. In fact, I’d be uncomfortable with just two of us anywhere else. It’s just too crowded! I understand the profit motive to jam as many people into a room as possible, but in my estimation it might help the dining experience if they pulled a table or two out of the mix and offered a little shoulder room with their fish.

For dessert, Autumn and I shared the macadamia nut brownie and others tried the creme brulee. Both were very good and at a fair price ($5.70 and $4.90, respectively). A cappuccino delivered to me was a good size, but I wasnt crazy about the too-bitter coffee they used, but that is certainly a personal preference. If price is no object, the fish was of very good quality. If you’re trying to save a few bucks, though, Bonefish just doesnt give you enough for the price.

Pros:

– Fresh, high-quality seafood
– Creative selection of appetizers
– Terrific wait staff

Cons:

– Most portion sizes small
– Poor management
– Very crowded interior

Guru’s Score: 3.2 Chews
★★★☆☆
Subjective rating: Should have been better.
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Bonefish Grill - Marlton, NJ, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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