Bonefish Grill is stylish and smart, a bit self-conscious perhaps, but they mean well. You can get a very healthy meal, or you can get pasta with cream sauce. There’s something for everyone, but they offer more tasty healthy choices than most places.
I didn’t recognize the old Border’s bookstore on Wolf Road — the bar is in the old children’s section, with plenty of room and those casual, high tables and chairs.
Over to the right is the main dining room, filled with booths with a banquette under plate-glass windows that looks out onto the patio that will no doubt be hopping when the weather warms up.
The longest wall has a stylized metal seascape, complete with whale, fisherman and deserted isle. One or two statement pendant lamps hang from the ceiling and there’s an ambitious planter in the center of the room. The black ceiling tiles go nicely with the sandy color scheme. The lighting is flattering.
WHERE: 59 Wolf Road, Colonie, 459-2046, www.bonefishgrill.com
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $57.24 with tax and tip, not including one glass of wine
MORE INFO: Wheelchair accessible, children’s menu, credit cards Master Card, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diner’s. Reservations accepted.
It feels fancier than your regular chain place, and most diners made the effort to tidy up a bit — there was only one baseball cap in the dining room.
But the pace of the meal gives away the fact that you’re in a chain restaurant and they want your table back.
You can get hand-held stuff like fish tacos ($9.90) and a big fat Kobe burger ($11.70), and there are entrees like Lily’s chicken, stuffed with goat cheese, spinach and artichoke hearts in a lemon basil sauce ($14.50). An 8-ounce filet mignon is reasonably priced at $21.70.
The grilled portion of the menu lets you choose your fish from at least a half dozen, sauce and two sides, which include many veggie choices. You can get a tasty, healthy meal here, and since Albany county requires calorie counts on menus, you know exactly what you’re getting. Can’t decide between Sir Will’s fish and chips and the filet mignon? You’ll spend $10.60 more for the steak, but you’ll save 700 calories.
We arrived early on a weekday evening and our host led us to a high table right away. He was well-trained enough not to blink when I asked for ground-level seating and immediately redirected us to one along the banquette, which was comfortable but chilly under the plate-glass windows.
Our server, well-versed in the menu and specials, went out of her way to make us feel welcome. She told us the bread was made fresh all day and what was the best stuff on the new menu.
The drinks were brought by a runner who asked which of us ordered the sauvignon blanc, another corporate tip-off. Presumably someone had to pour the drink and another person brought it, but no one noticed that the glass was dirty and bore a prominent lipstick mark. I brought it to the attention of the server, who apologized and replaced it, but didn’t comp it.
We started with the popular imperial dip ($9.40), well over an injudicious 1,000 calories. It was chock-full of scallops and medium-sized shrimp in a creamy sauce with a strong iodine flavor. My dining companion, Lisa, said it needed more cheese or salt.
They gave us the bottom of the pita chip bag, with only a few pieces large enough for dipping. They tasted great, though, because Bonefish Grill tops them with sea salt. We picked at the dish, preferring the fresh homemade bread and salty pesto dipping sauce.
The runner brought our entrees before the table was cleared, and there was a moment of awkward plate-shifting before the server arrived and took away the used dishes.
Lisa’s basil fettuccine with giant grilled shrimp ($14.90), looked and tasted great. “The shrimp are perfect,” she said adding, “And there’s some heat to the sauce.” She liked the cooked red pepper.
The fettucini was wide and a bit floppy, as good fresh pasta is, and the shrimp had the flavor of wood smoke. It was delicious.
I was equally pleased with the seasoned grilled tilapia ($15.30) and sides. Bonefish Grill doesn’t hold back on the seasoning. It was bold, musky and intriguing. I couldn’t identify which flavors that blended into the mix, but it included wood smoke and formed a light crust which kept the inside nice and moist. I would get it again.
Bonefish has a standard starch side that changes every so often, and you can substitute another for it if you’re not interested.
I wasn’t keen at first at the thought of garbanzo beans with turkey sausage, but was glad I ordered it. The sausage was light and crumbly, and like the fish and shrimp, assertively seasoned.
The calorie count didn’t scare me off, and the thought of all that fiber made me feel even better. There were even some dark greens in there to make it even healthier.
Thank you, Bonefish, for buttering the vegetables. A growing body of research shows that adding butter to vegetables improves the absorption of phytochemicals, vitamins and other beneficial nutrients, and it makes them taste better. Bonefish seasons them well, and they go down easy.
The warm, sweet, mango salsa is full of soft chunks of fruit with bits of red pepper and onion, and plenty of cilantro, which helps cut the sweetness.
For dessert, my key lime pie ($6.50) filling was tangy and rich, the whipped cream topping luxuriously dense. The graham cracker crust with chopped walnuts was clunky and overly thick, but the pie tasted good and fresh and homemade.
Lisa’s creme brulee ($6.90) was the largest serving I’ve seen and the creamy filling and crackling sugar crust are just right. It gets points for a sprig of fresh mint and blueberry garnish.
Our check arrived unbidden, as we were eating our desserts. The bar was already two deep and there were standees waiting for a table.
Time to go. It’s a happening place, but not good for a date unless you’re on your way somewhere and not planning to linger.
The tab came to $57.24, not including the wine.