2400 3rd St S
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
10950 San Jose Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32223
If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Jacksonville has a plethora of seafood restaurants. And why shouldn’t it? With its prime location right off the Atlantic Ocean and the St John’s River running right down the middle of the city, it’s easy to see why Jacksonville is becoming an attractive spot for seafoodies. Most of the seafood places in town run in the $ – $$ range (if you’re using Yelp or Google to search for a place to eat); think Sid and Linda’s Seafood, Safe Harbor Seafood, or my most recent review, Beachside Seafood Restaurant & Market. Great food at a great value. There are a few $$$ – $$$$ (upscale) seafood places; Marker 32, Ocean 60, and the like. It’s seafood with a flair, paying a little more for the ambiance, the extra attentive service, and the unique ways chefs prepare the same cut of fish most everyone else in town gets. A cursory search on Yelp brought up about 4 pages of $$$ – $$$$ restaurants in Jacksonville and most of them were restaurants that happen to have seafood on their menu as opposed to seafood being the point of the menu.
So when Bonefish Grill invited us to try out their seasonal Winter 2016 menu, I jumped at the chance to eat above my pay grade. I’m always encouraged to see national chains bring out seasonal menus in parts of the country where they can take advantage of locally sourced seasonal ingredients. For instance, during this part of the year in Florida, it’s stone crab season. Bonefish Grill offers Stone Crab Claws on their winter menu, and only in their Florida locations.
There are two Bonefish Grill locations in Jacksonville, one on 3rd St in Jax Beach, the other on San Jose Blvd in Mandarin. We decided to check out the Jax Beach location.
The host greeted us warmly when we walked in and we were seated quickly in our booth. It was a packed house on this Thursday night. The dining room was dimly lit, but not dark. The bar area to the right of the bar was bustling with activity and people enjoying some libations after a long work day. The dining area to the left was lively. People looked happy, smiling, toasting, and overall, enjoying themselves.
Our server was friendly and knowledgeable. He ran down the specials without a pause, describing each dish in delicious detail. He took our drink order and left us to peruse the winter menu.
For our appetizer, we decided on the Lobster, Crab, and Artichoke Dip. The dip is made with lobster, lump crabmeat, and artichokes; mixed with mozzarella, fontina cheese, and sour cream. It’s served with housemade tortilla chips. Normally, I imagine dips as a creamy blend of all these ingredients, with some bite size pieces of crab and lobster to let you know it’s in there. What was presented was more large chunks than creamy blend. There were colossal pieces of lobster; almost entire claws, large lumps of crab meat, and diced up artichoke. The housemade tortilla chips begged for mercy as I tried to scoop up some of the dip. I would say it was less dip and really a small casserole. With all that being said, it tasted fantastic! I gave up on the chips and dug in there with my fork and piece of bread. The lobster was beautifully cooked, satisfyingly sweet and enhanced by the lump crab meat. The diced artichoke was tender and delicious. The cheese blend and sour cream tied everything together nicely. Eating a composed bite of lobster, crab, artichoke, and cheese blend warmed the cockles of my heart. It was a great start to the meal to be sure, but calling it a dip was a bit of a misnomer.
For my entrée, I ordered the Mahi Mahi Oscar. For my meal accompaniment, I chose to sub the salad for a cup of soup. When given a chance to sub a salad for soup, I usually do. For me, eating a warm bowl of soup preps my mind and body for the meal ahead. The feeling of relaxation flows through me as I sip on a spoonful of broth, or let the flavors of a hearty chowder dance on my tongue. The corn and crab chowder did exactly that. There were nice whole kernels of corn, diced potato, and lump crab meat all swimming in a warm creamy stock. The sweetness of the corn combined with the natural sweetness of the crab was a beautiful match. There was a little heat on the back end. Nothing overpowering, but just enough to cut through the sweetness a bit. I highly recommend it.
The Mahi Mahi Oscar is wood grilled, topped with jumbo lump crab meat, served with steamed asparagus and drizzled with lemon butter. I had choice of two sides. I chose garlic whipped mashed potatoes and green beans. It was all beautifully plated with the lump crab meat and asparagus resting gently on the perfectly grilled Mahi. The lemon butter gave everything a nice shine and acidity. The green beans were bright and probably the greenest green beans I’ve ever seen. The Mahi was grilled skillfully with nice crosshatch marks on the surface. The outside was a little bit crispy from the grilling, but the inside was tender and flaky. The crab was sweet and the lemon butter was just bright and citrus-y enough to cut against it. Both the asparagus and green beans were a perfect al dente. The garlic whipped mashed potatoes was airy, silky smooth, and with just a hint of garlic. The whole plate was mild in flavor with the lemon butter punching through, giving the mildness a much needed citrus boost.
My dining partner ordered the Misoyaki Sea Bass. The Sea Bass is grilled over oak, laid on a bed of jasmine rice and sautéed spinach, all topped with a misoyaki marinade and pickled ginger. If the Mahi Mahi Oscar was a gentle, delicate caress of your taste buds, then the Misoyaki Sea Bass is a straight up punch to the tongue with bold, strong flavors. The Misoyaki marinade and the pickled ginger wakes up your palate and makes you take notice. I literally took a bite, began chewing, looked at the plate, and audibly said “Woah” like I was doing a bad Keanu Reeves Matrix impression. The Sea Bass, like the Mahi, was grilled with the same expert precision. The Sea Bass was delicate, juicy, and tender. It had a nice little bounce back when I poked it with my fork. It soaked up the Misoyaki marinade and took the whole fish to another level. The jasmine rice was fluffy and aromatic. Its own scent married perfectly with the smell of the marinade and pickled ginger. Of the two entrées, I have to say this one was probably my favorite.
To end our dinner my dining partner and I shared a chocolate crème brulee. It’s a traditional crème brulee, but made with chocolate custard and a splash of Grand Marnier. It’s topped with housemade whipped cream and a mint leaf garnish. There’s no better feeling in the foodie world, I think, than breaking through a perfectly caramelized glass-like layer of sugar with a spoon and digging into that smooth, sweet, custard underneath. The chocolate crème brulee was rich, decadent, creamy, and guilt-inducing.
At the end of the meal, I have to say that Bonefish Grill’s Winter 2016 menu is a huge success. It may be a little pricier than your average seafood joint, but it’s worth every penny. So get there before winter ends, which in Jacksonville will probably be in about five minutes.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.