Restaurants & Bars


Capaneus | Jul 26, 2004 10:51 PM

Had dinner with a friend at Pasion this weekend, and... it wasn't exactly all it could be. My biggest disappointment were the ceviches: we got the larger sampler, since these are his forte. We consistently found the fish to be nearly irrelevant to the preparations: the salmon was utterly overwhelmed by a (very tasty) blood orange marinade - although the salmon roe, when we found it at the bottom, did actually stand up to the marinade; the scallops were similarly bullied about by the mushroom/truffle background, and in this case only the texture ever allowed me to think there *were* scallops involved; the shrimp were the most successful - and also the least adventurous: I can't actually recall what they were served with; neither of the other two left much more of an impression (octopus and squid, I think).

My boar appetizer was more successful, the tender grilled meat easily standing up to the tartness and sweetness of the sour cherries, a hint of gaminess adding just enough of a hint of exoticism. Myself, I would have preferred a stronger-tasting cut, but all in all it was a very good dish. My entree was a strip steak with a chimichurri rub, topped with a wild beehive hairdo of fried yucca. The chimichurri did not have a particularly assertive presence, but as steaks go, it was a good steak.

Part of the problem, though, is that I ended up ordering food to match the wine - a carignane from Chile which was perfectly delicious, a deep, earthy wine with a sour-cherry afterbite that was surprisingly reminescent of a lighter Amarone. A wonderful, surprising bottle, but getting there was a bit of a trick: I know wine, but South America is a bit of a blank for me; and I wanted to have something that my celler couldn't surpass. Our server, however, was simply clueless. It was clear from the start that he had no knowledge of the list, which would be fine, but he wasted a good chunk of both our times trying to bluff his way through it. When we finally got Ken, the sommelier, things went much better. In defense of the restaurant, I overheard other servers who were clearly superior to ours, both on the menu and on the wine list; and if I hadn't tried to be nice, and had asked for Ken or Michael Dombkoski as soon as I saw the man's limitations I wouldn't have gotten as frustrated. And it is possible my frustration colored my impression of the meal.

As to the menu... I should have ordered the kid. It's what I wanted, and a vague recollection of a disappointment long ago should not have stopped me. My friend's sea bass was excellent, so the kitchen clearly is able to excel.

All in all, a very mixed experience, which wouldn't have disappointed at a restaurant that set itself less ambitious goals. But it does, so it was. Especially disappointing is that the dishes that were most successful (the steak, the sea bass) were also the less distinctive ones, the ones where the chef did not seem to be trying for personal expression or local character. And not to be a philistine, but a price tag of almost $300 for two entitled me to a better meal, I think.

Your mileage may vary.

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