kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits, travel & lifestyle writer / wine educator


Reston gets a dose of Passion

The restaurant scene at the Reston Town Center has slowly been improving, but it's still filled with too many ho hum chains for my liking. That's why I was excited at the recent opening of PassionFish, the newest restaurant from Passion Food Hospitality, whose owners, Chef Jeff Tunks, Gus Dimillo, and David Wizenberg, also run DC Coast, Ten Penh, Ceiba and Acadiana.

The look is sleek yet sea like, with lots of brushed metal, along with blues and tans. Bubble chandeliers hang from the light fixtures, and whimsical fish sculptures created from scrap metal dot the walls. (I saw one with a spatula for a tail, and the restaurant is waiting for the arrival of a much larger fish that will serve as more of a focal point.) One long blank wall will also have an abstract moving ocean or fish scene projected onto it. A second floor offers a bit more privacy--especially one cute romantic table just to the right of the top of the stairs. The back wall of the attractive bar has tiny multicolored tiles, and cute touches at the tables like flatware whose ends are shaped like fishtails keep the look casual and fun. PassionFish made its debut on October 25, and it was pretty busy last evening for a Wednesday night (maybe some of it was post-election celebration?)

The cocktail menu doesn't offer anything completely out of the ordinary, but there are classy choices like the French 75 (though the gin, sugar and lemon in mine could have served from 30 seconds or so in the shaker with ice before topping it with sparkling wine), along with a Caipirinha, Mojito, St. Germain cocktail and a handful of others. The wine list has a good selection of reasonably-priced wines by the glass, and for a restaurant that mainly offers seafood, they get it right--it's heavy on crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet and Vermentino; and lighter reds like Pinot Noir.

A small raw bar overlooks the kitchen, and guests can select a la carte from the raw bar menu. Larger appetites can select the "Big Daddy", which at $69 offers clams, oysters, shrimp cocktail, crab claws and lobster. The other appetizers are divided into cold and hot. The hamachi crudo was fantastic. Thinly sliced over a piece of red grapefruit, and topped with olive oil, sea salt and a slice of jalapeno, the fish was a culinary lesson in balance. Crispy fried oysters were delicate and not at all chewy or greasy, and served on an interesting celery root and green apple slaw with tarragon aioli. Even those who proclaim not to like oysters would polish off these.

The highlight for me on the entree side was butter poached lobster done in a red curry sauce. I'm typically a lobster purist--just steam it and serve it with drawn butter--but this dish was really tasty--rich, buttery and savory, with a curry sauce that added flavor and seasoning, but not heat that would overpower the delicate shellfish.

Just as at their other area restaurants, donuts make an appearance on the dessert menu (thank goodness.) Here they take the form of donut holes, served with a coffee bavarian cream. While the cream was delicious, I preferred to enjoy the warm donuts on their own. Other choices like a key lime meringue tart with ice cream, mango and pineapple may better serve those who want a tart ending to their meal.

Since I live in the Reston area, I welcome the arrival of restaurants like PassionFish that give me a taste of DC with a much shorter drive...For more information about PassionFish, check out their website.