Restaurant Review #272: Bonao (Perth Amboy, NJ)

I’m still thinking about those yucca fries. How clean and hot the oil must have been to achieve such crisp, deep-fried perfection without barely darkening their tint. This was my third experience with Bonao—the first two were takeout. However, this was the first chance I had to actually sit down and read their menu, and it is an extensive one at that. There must be 50 or so options ranging from familiar chicken rice to the more exotic and authentic tripe stew. While the quality of food is similar to that of nearby Don Manuel, this place has a more restaurant-feel as there are no steam tables to browse or line to wait on. The menu contains multiple sections, both in Spanish and English right next to it. Just like many other such restaurants in Perth Amboy, I would estimate 95% of the clientele is not English-speaking. But that just adds to the authenticity.

Previously from Bonao, I had beef stew along with arroz con gandules. It was delicious and hearty. On this visit, though, I wanted to go a bit lighter and decided on the shrimp in garlic sauce. This came with a choice of white rice or the arroz con gandules. I went with the latter, as it has become a Spanish favorite of mine. Oddly enough, the menu bears no prices of any kind, so I was hoping I would not be shocked by the bill at the end of our experience. You know what seafood dishes go for just 20 minutes away. Justin ordered the fried shrimp, which came with a side salad. We added a side of yucca fries to share.

During one of our takeout meals, we had the yucca fries. While they were good, this is clearly a dish meant to be eaten hot out of the fryer. Our table was loaded with flavors, but it was this simple side that really put everything over the edge. They were fried so crisply that they became flaky and practically broke apart in my mouth. A dash of hot sauce (or not) was all that was needed to give it some heat.

As for our meals, I’ll start with Justin’s. I was totally expecting to see his shrimp battered and deep-fried, but instead, they appeared to be seasoned and sauteed or lightly pan-fried. Both of ours came with a total of eight. Mine were served in a luscious garlic sauce. It was so incredible that I found myself spooning it onto the rice just so I could consume more. Had I a loaf of bread from Portuguese Manor to sop it up, I would have been licking the plate clean. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, and it served as the light[er] lunch I was looking for. The rice too was perfection, and may be the fluffiest I’ve ever had. The portion was so massive that we both ate it and there was still some remaining in the plate.

Rating Bonao is easy: 4 out of 5 stars. Every item I’ve ever had just screams “Flavor!” and I am already looking forward to a return visit, perhaps next week. As for the mystery prices, we determined based on the bill that both shrimp dishes were $10 each, which is more than reasonable. There are a lot of Spanish restaurants in Perth Amboy. Make sure you end up at the right one.

Bonao is located at 339 Oak Street in Perth Amboy, NJ.


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