Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 8, 2021

Autumn returns with a Bang Bang at Bonefish Grill

The Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish Grill. - Photograph provided

Autumn is a magical time in Chattanooga. Everywhere you turn, you’re treated to a sight, sound or aroma that lures you into the embrace of this enchanting season.

There’s the sound of crisp leaves scraping against the pavement downtown, the smoky tang of a neighbor burning leaves and the warm display of orange, red and yellow trees on the mountains that circle the city.

Like thousands of paintbrushes dipped into different colors and then poked into the landscape, they invite us to slow down after the hustle and bustle of summer and enjoy the stillness.

With the arrival of the autumn menu at Bonefish Grill, there’s also a potpourri of flavors to help us savor the season.

A nationally based casual dining restaurant with one location in Chattanooga, Bonefish serves a selection of traditional American dishes, with emphasis on grilled fish and other seafood appetizers and entrees.

The latter might explain why there are 50 Bonefish Grills in Florida and eight in Tennessee. It definitely clarifies the inclusion of seafood on the restaurant’s seasonal bill of fare.

As a fan of ocean-harvested food, I was eager to taste test Bonefish Grill’s fall offerings and scheduled a visit. When a friend learned about my plans, her eyes grew as big as pumpkins and she exclaimed, “Bang Bang Shrimp!”

I’d never been to Bonefish, so I thought she might be telling me about a new song she’d heard. (She sends a steady stream of music video links to my phone, so this would not have been out of character.) Instead, she was referring to the restaurant’s popular appetizer.

The Bang Bang Shrimp, as she schooled me, consists of shrimp fried in a cornstarch and buttermilk coating and dipped in a concoction of mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, sriracha and honey. It’s so good, she continued, it’s the sole reason many people dine at Bonefish Grill.

As luck would have it, Bonefish includes the Bang Bang Shrimp on its autumn menu.

Although my friend’s song recommendations are hit or miss, I trusted her appraisal of the grill’s signature appetizer and invited her to tag along. If someone can become as excited as she was over shrimp, they must be good.

As we settled into our seats on a Thursday night, bowl after bowl of Bang Bang Shrimp passed our table, stoking my appetite. But unlike the throngs who allegedly have only one thing on their mind when they pull up to Bonefish, we were there to try the entire autumn carte du jour, and the shrimp were just the tip of that pile of leaves.

Bonefish provides guests who want to experience fall at the grill a second option for an appetizer – Kung Pao Shrimp. These are flash fried, tossed in a sweet chili soy glaze and served with Asian vegetables and macadamia nuts over a bed of jasmine rice.

They sounded good, but as our server, Cheron, was describing them, a co-worker paraded another bowl of Bang Bang Shrimp past our table, so the dye cast.

For entrees, Bonefish returned from global waters to offer foodies a pair of grilled seafood treats: the cedar plank salmon and the Swordfish and Pumpkin Ravioli.

Grilled with a Jim Beam bourbon maple glaze and finished with a Bordeaux cherry gastrique, the cedar plank salmon sounded tailor-made for autumn dining.

The swordfish, which is wood-grilled and topped with crispy onions, crumbled feta and a hint of butter, seemed like it would be at home on any seasonal menu. However, pairing it with pumpkin ravioli entices the palette with the most characteristic flavor of fall.

The other distinctive flavor of autumn came into play when Cheron suggested adding apple martinis to our order. Made with fresh apples, infused in vodka and finished with a touch of honey and cinnamon, it brought to mind the songs my friend sends me – probably not my cup of tea but I’m opening to trying anything.

For those who like to end a meal on a sweet note, Bonefish is serving pumpkin lava cake, which features hints of cinnamon and nutmeg with a cream cheese molten center and is served warm and topped with house-made whipped cream.

Yeah, that sounded as decadent to us as it probably does to you.

If you’ve tried the Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish, then you don’t need me to tell you my friend was right.

With a single crispy bite, my eyes grew as big as pumpkins and I exclaimed it was my new favorite appetizer in Chattanooga. (My apologies to the taquitos at Corazon de Mexico on Battlefield Parkway. You had a good run, though.)

I followed this with the swordfish and pumpkin ravioli.

Having never eaten swordfish, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s a moist and mildly sweet meat, which might be why the chefs at Bonefish complemented it with savory flavors that provide a balanced bite. It was good, but not the star of the meal.

That would be the pumpkin ravioli. Made with browned butter and topped with feta crumbles, fried shallots and green onions, it’s a little sweet, a little savory, perfectly salty and utterly delicious.

In a fit of goofy lyricality, I told my friend the pumpkin ravioli tasted like fall on a fork and declared it was my favorite item on Bonefish Grill’s autumn menu. (My apologies to the Bang Bang Shrimp. You had a good run, though.)

As our forks dove into the lava pumpkin cake, we agreed it was as decadent as it sounded and the perfect crescendo to an outstanding meal.

Just like fall, Bonefish Grill’s autumn menu will be here for only a short time and then fade into memory with the chilly arrival of winter, so if anything I’ve described sounds appetizing, don’t delay.

Soon, the sound of crisp leaves scraping against the pavement downtown, the smoky tang of a neighbor burning leaves and the warm display of orange, red and yellow trees on the mountains that circle the city will be gone – as will the grilled swordfish and pumpkin ravioli and the pumpkin lava cake.

The Bang Bang Shrimp, however, are forever.