The name of this bistro and bar, Pasión, aptly describes this sophisticated, Latin-inspired restaurant. The trendy decór and entertainment, as well as the food and drinks attracts hip crowds to this Northside San Antonio locale. The feel of this place could be described as a restaurant with a club type of atmosphere. But not to worry, the focus is the food.
One of the first things you will notice here is the bar. It is prominently set at the entrance to the restaurant and displays the largest selection of rum I have ever seen. The rum list boasts over 100 selections which is really cool for me because I’m kind of a self-professed liquor snob. However, don’t expect the waitstaff to help you with any selections. The two times I asked for recommendations my waitperson had to ask the manager. Even then, the manager never spoke to me personally about my likes and dislikes. For a place that uses its rum selection as a gimmick, it should be better prepared to talk about the menu (rum sommelier, anyone?).
When I lived in Europe, we were always served bread as soon as we were seated. Here, you get a basket of warm banana bread. It is a unique offering that I always run out of and have to ask for more of. The service is good here, but conversation is a little difficult since the tables are somewhat oversized and the restaurant a little loud. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is upbeat.
I’ve only had a few things here, and the menu rotates seasonally. So, I’ll tell you what I know. The second “gimmick,” for lack of a better term, that the restaurant uses is its ceviche menu. I was attracted to this place because it boasted a large and diverse ceviche offering. Their online menu lists only four offerings here. The last time I visited there were well over fifteen. It seems that the focus might be changing and it is regrettable, yet understandable. Americans still have not warmed up (no pun intended) to raw fish (Okay, don’t fight me on this – the citrus does not cook the fish, it only denatures the proteins making it seem cooked). Part of the problem, of course, is that few places do it well, and i’ve had mixed results here. In general, I love the combinations that the restaurant tries from the different meat offerings to the spice combinations. The Tradicionál uses white fish, citrus juices, pico de gallo, and a light tomato sauce. This a what you will find in most places. The Vuelve a la Vida (Back to life) combines shrimp, octopus and oysters in a sweet and spicy tomato sauce. I thought that it tasted good, but didn’t appreciate the drowning in the sauce. The Tiradito de Atún (Tuna mix) uses sushi grade tuna in a citrus soy dressing with Napa cabbage. This was probably the most unique flavor offered and I liked it a lot. Another ceviche I had which I no longer see on the menu used scallops in a papaya dressing. My papaya dressing was fermented (it had that zingy taste of citrus past its expiration date), although the manager tried to convince me that this is how papaya tasted and that Americans are unfamiliar with the taste (Hello! I’m a latino, you know?). Regardless, try one out or go for the Ceviche Tasting, which is what I did.
The Caribbean Meatball appetizer was very tasty. A chorizo meatball topped with a mango-jicama relish and julienned vegetables rests on a tostón (fried plantain). The taste was excellent but was hard to eat. A round ball on a flat surface doesn’t stay put. A plantain cup would have been much better. The Patacones (other latinos call them tostones) are twice-fried plantains served with a mojo (pronounced mó·ho) sauce. The mojo is normally a mix of butter, oil, garlic, and spices. This is a must-have as it is a staple of latin diets, and done well at Pasión.
I ordered the Brazilian Skewer once but was completely disappointed. Shrimp, chorizo, filet mignon, and at the time, chicken, are grilled on a skewer, served with a chimichurri sauce and a bed of rice. My disappointment came in that the meats all have different cooking times, but they were all cooked together. One piece of filet was cooked well and all the rest of the meat was overcooked and dry. In addition, my rice had “pegao,” a slang term for sticky or crispy rice (my mom’s going to disown me for this kind of talk). Many latinos like the crispy rice that sticks to the side of the pan. I don’t. Personally, I don’t think the restaurant normally serves this and may have overlooked it on my dish. The manager did offer to re-make the dish but I declined. It wasn’t inedible.
Finally, try the Tres Leches cake (Three Milks). This type of white cake is usually drenched with a mix of cream, condensed milk, and cajeta (caramelized goat’s milk) and served cold. The cake here is worth ordering.
Overall, Pasión is a fun place to eat, drink, see and be seen. I would recommend this place to anyone looking for an upbeat dining experience.