California's First Bonefish Grill Swims into Tustin

Just opened in Tustin: Bonefish Grill, in the Marketplace near In-n-Out. Bonefish is a Tampa-based seafood chain with nearly 200 restaurants making its first foray into California. Orange County seems perfect for the inaugural Golden State location—we love upscale-casual, especially when accessorized with craft beer and cocktails.

At a recent preview I tried the bestselling Bang Bang Shrimp ($11), which reminded me of Cantonese honey walnut shrimp, but with a kick. The OMG—Ocean Mixed Grill—is a seafood trio sometimes offered as a special. Seared ahi, roasted sea bass, and last-of-season king salmon each were prepared, seasoned, sauced differently, which made for an interesting plate. Impeccably fresh, too. Also, not a complaint, but lobster rolls keep finding me. (Read my recent O.C. mag Smackdown here, and about Taps’ terrific rendition here.) Bonefish’s lobster roll is a serious contender, with a perfectly-grilled, toothsome roll that the company gets from an old-line Chicago bakery. Look for it on the bar menu during the Tales of Lobster Tuesdays, when two adorable, plump, slider-sized sandwiches plus fries are just $7.90.

I like the leadership position the company has taken on ingredient sourcing, advised by the Ocean Trust fishery conservation foundation. Like O.C.’s homegrown, now-going-international Slapfish, Bonefish Grill serves only seafood meeting stringent sustainability standards. At the preview, vice president and executive chef Mark Adair spoke familiarly about meeting with suppliers in South America and elsewhere, and pointed out how his company, due to its tremendous purchasing volume, can make a difference by encouraging well-managed fisheries.

Director of design Flavia Bisi was on hand to discuss the restaurant interior, which is casual and relaxed, but with richly-textured, luxurious materials on every surface. Ultrathin panels of pocked wormwood are sandwiched between low glass panels dividing the bar from the dining room, creating a space that’s separate but still open, as Bisi said. You won’t miss the fish-shaped wall sculpture on the back wall, made of individual hanging lozenges that shimmer and move. The revolving door ushering you directly into the airy bar is an unexpected touch that really delivers a sense of event as you enter, starting any visit off on the right foot.

Bonefish Grill, 3040 El Camino Real, Tustin, 714-368-7613