Starting the New Year with Passion…Fish

whole crispy flounder
It is fortuitous that the beginning of the new year coincides with the publication of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants.  This gives me the opportunity to make my new year’s resolutions based on the restaurants where I most want to dine in the coming year.  I realize that most people start their year out with resolutions about eating less and exercising more.  I too, began the year with a trip to the gym, and a vow to watch what I eat- at least during the week.  But a few days later my attention is turned to plotting out my year in dining.
This year’s Washingtonian list includes rankings for the top 40 restaurants, while the remainder are listed in alpha order and given two to two and a half stars.  My New Year’s resolution is focused on the top 40, and is as follows:
I will dine at 15 of the top 40 restaurants where I have never been before or have not been for the past two years. There are 23 restaurants that fall into this category including Palena Cafe, Obelisk, Corduroy, CityZen and Inn at Little Washington (all on the never been list) and Komi, Tosca, and Restaurant Eve (haven’t been in two years or more).   I also resolve to patronize the bottom 60% of the list whenever feasible, although I hesitate to quantify it.  I hope this is not too vague for a resolution.
Reviewing the list, it appears that this resolution has the potential to have a serious affect on my checkbook, in addition to my weight.  I will do my best to spend dollars and calories wisely.

I am serious about my resolution, so on the first of January I dined at #30 on the list:  PassionFish in Reston. It is a solid beginning.

The variety of fresh fish on the menu is a bit daunting at first, as so many of the preparations appeal to me.  For example, I can choose from Jamaican, Thai, or Asian flavors. Our group of six initially discusses sharing appetizers, but there are too many choices so most of us decide to order our own.  I share a sushi roll special which consists of spicy tuna and crab with tempura crumbs on top for texture, which is a nice touch.  It is certainly plentiful, so I have no regrets about sharing.

sushi roll special

My husband enjoys the grilled pear salad, and the spicy tuna tartare is deemed “delish.”  The risotto with shrimp, cider and butternut squash is described as “too liquidy,”  while the butternut squash and lobster bisque is deemed a winner as the bisque is light and the lobster is generous. We all lament that the bread basket is a little sparse and nothing special.  It is in fact not bread but toasted baguettes, served with a decent whitefish spread.

grilled pear salad

My entree is the whole crispy flounder with spicy tamarind chili nam pla, and a cucumber sunomona salad.  I don’t often order whole fish (I have to avoid the eyes), but something about this dish calls out to me. It is a winner (although my husband disagrees).  The fish has a perfect crispness and while the sauce is not overwhelming, every now and again I get a bite of chili pepper, which is a welcome flavor.

Two of my friends order a lemon sole special which is lightly fried with a potato crust.  One of them opts out of the accompanying collard greens with bacon and is given grilled asparagus instead, which is appreciated.  I find the fish a little mushy, and it is the smoky collard greens that I like best.  But my friends are happy with their selection.

lemon sole

The jerk salmon with fufu mash, mango salsa and toasted coconut seems to be missing the jerk and could pack some additional punch, but is still described as “YAH MON, delicious!”

jerk salmon
 My husband’s “Firecracker Tuna” with Szechuan eggplant, wasabi, and chili Sauce is cooked perfectly and he admires the flavor and contrasting textures.
firecracker tuna
Our server is knowledgeable but her descriptions of the food are so detailed that after awhile we tune out.  Sometimes less is more. 
We end the meal with wonderful warm donut holes with coffee bavarian cream, and an unremarkable honey apple crisp.      
As I do at the end of most restaurant visits these days, I ask my friends to rate their meals on a scale of 1-5.  The scores range from a 3.8 to a 5.0.   I don’t think PassionFish is close to a 5.0, but I do think it is a worthy destination for seafood lovers.  
I am happy to be on my way towards fulfilling my New Year’s resolution.  But I have this nagging feeling that my goal is too much about me.  So I decide to make another resolution: to be more patient with family members, particularly when I am feeling stressed out.  
Nah. Not sure that’s attainable.  I think I’ll just take them out to dinner more often, and leave it at that.

PassionFish, 11960 Democracy Drive, Reston Town Center 

Washington Post review 
Washingtonian 2011 Restaurant Guide, 100 Very Best Places to Eat, #30


My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.0
Zagat rating:   24

PassionFish on Urbanspoon 



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