11960 Democracy Dr., Reston
Tel: 703.230.FISH  <— cute isn't it?
March is a big birthday month in my extended family. My husband’s grandmother turned 87 on the 17th. My father-in-law had his birthday on the 19th and even more exciting my son, Alexander, turned five on the 21st. My father-in-law cooks for most of my husband’s family birthday celebrations, so for his own we decided to go out. I was given the honor to choose where we went to dinner. This posed a logistical challenge for a number of reasons. First of all, there were nine of us. We had a wheelchair and needed easy access to the front door and dining room. We also had two small children in our party, so it needed to be as kids-friendly as possible. A lot to consider, but I had an idea! Seafood is a favorite of everyone in the family, and I had recently been to PassionFish, in Reston Town Center, for Restaurant Week. I knew that the front of the restaurant could be accessed right from the sidewalk. I knew that there was a large dining room on the main level and I could test out their self-proclaimed kids menu. With all these things being considered, PassionFish was an easy choice. I was lucky enough to score a reservation on a Friday night at our ideal time of 7 p.m., and for nine people at that. I contacted the restaurant via e-mail to ask them if they were able to accommodate our large party in the dining room on the main level. (See photo of Main Dining Room for view of the Mezzanine level above staircase). Grandma is in a wheelchair and can’t go up stairs. They reassured me that they were able to accommodate our large group, including the wheel chair and high chair that we needed. When they called to confirm, I asked again, just to be doubly sure.
When we arrived at the restaurant, General Manager Michael Yarger graciously greeted us at the door. The table was ready when we arrived and we were able to be seated right away. We had a little bit of trouble re-arranging the chairs in order to fit grandma’s wheelchair but the highchair was already at the table in place for us. Once we were settled into our seats our server came over to the table. I recognized Phillip right away from the last time that I dined at PassionFish. He told us that Halibut was the “Poisson du Jour” (or the Fish of the Day for the non-French speaking). My husband and I decided to split some sushi for our appetizer, so we ordered a simple California Roll with Jumbo Lump crab meat, Avocado, and Cucumber. I thought that it was okay, but I’m not nearly the sushi lover that my husband is. For the main course, I ordered the Monkfish “Osso Bucco” Amatriciana. (See picture on the right). Through some online research, I learned that “Osso Bucco” is Italian for ‘hole bone’. Considered a classic dish in Milan, Italy, veal shanks are cut across the bone into slices using the bone marrow as part of the appeal of the dish. The veal is usually sprinkled with gremolata, a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon peel, and served with risotto. PassionFish has done an excellent job recreating this Milanese classic; however, with fish. Presenting the fish “Amatriciana” with zesty pancetta and tomato sauce so named after the Italian town of Amatrice, is quite flavorful and zesty. If it were any spicier, I would not have been able to eat it. The menu description includes the “gremolata”; however, to be perfectly honest, I think it would be nearly impossible to notice a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon peel with the pancetta as spicy as it was. The fish was served atop creamy Parmesan Polenta. I really like the polenta. It’s delicious and is a better accompaniment than mashed potatoes. The Passion Hospitality Food Group doesn’t have an Italian themed restaurant, but if they were to open one, I think this would be an excellent signature dish for them (but using the Veal, perhaps, as it is more traditionally Italian). My husband ordered the Whole Crispy Flounder. This has not really happened before in my experience, perhaps it’s rare for PassionFish also, but my husband’s meal did not come out with the rest of the main courses. His flounder arrived 5-10 minutes later. It was indeed the whole fish! It was quite spectacular (see photo to the right). I tried one bite that my husband fed to me and it contained 4 very long bones! He apologized that the bite that he gave me had so many bones in it. With that being said, I wasn’t able to really get an idea of how the fish tasted. When asked, my husband said his fish was very good but was more than he needed. He mentioned that Tamarind Chili Garlic Nam Pla Prik, with his fish (served in a side dish) was very good, spicy without being over-powering. I did not try it. I don’t do peppers, as I am allergic. He did not care much for the vinegar dressing that came with the Sunumona Salad.
As for the kids menu at PassionFish, I will say that my son’s “Beach Bucket” of Chicken tenders and French Fries did arrive in a jaunty nautical blue & white tin bucket, just as the menu described. The chicken tenders were crispy and delicious. The fry batter was well-seasoned, yet not too salty. The fries, although sprinkled just lightly with Old Bay, were too spicy for my five year old’s taste; however, he ate all three of the chicken tenders. He also enjoyed coloring on the nautical themed placemat and he occupied himself by playing with the “Wikki Sticks” that were provided to him. The server was very tolerant of the fact that we had kids. He was very patient, polite, and professional. He asked me if I wanted the kids meal to come out before the adult entrees. I told him that if we had his meal arrive beforehand that he would finish eating before we got our meals and we would be disturbed while trying to enjoy our dinners. My son’s meal did come out a few minutes before every one else’s meal, but not too far in advance that it was a problem. I consider PassionFish to be pretty kids-friendly, although I was surprised to discover that neither the Ladies nor the Men’s room was equipped with a changing station. We were at the restaurant at least two hours. My daughter, who is one needed a diaper change, but we were unable to do so because there were no facilities to do so. This was part of my consideration but I still gave PassionFish my highest kids-friendly rating thus far: 3 pacifiers (or as my husband calls it “sucks”). I’m looking forward to returning and I will certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a family friendly restaurant with excellent food!