Restaurant Review: Pasion

Pasion is located at 737 Irving Street, between 10th and 9th Avenues.

Walking around the Inner Sunset district of San Francisco, one might not expect to stumble upon a funky, modern Latin restaurant -- yet that is exactly what we found. Executive chef and owner Jose Calvo-Perez, who has trained in Spain and represents Fresca's Peruvian Restaurants in SF, recently opened his new restaurant, Pasion, in a low-key neighborhood by Golden Gate Park. The restaurant kicks up the local scene with fun, fresh flavors from the Latino Caribbean and South and Central America.

Pasion offers a well-designed and well-outfitted waiting area.

Walled windows let in a generous amount of natural lighting.

Colorful murals add to the restaurant's ambiance.

The restaurant's tasteful trappings reflect its cuisine perfectly -- modern, playful, and bright. Pasion features a well-stocked bar, open kitchen, colorful murals, and tons of light-play thanks to walls of mirrors and windows. We came in during a rainy afternoon and quickly forgot about the dreary outdoors while inside Pasion's wonderfully designed space. Service was excellent and exceptionally friendly; they happily seated us even though they were about to close for dinner in half an hour.

Our sampler trio of ceviches.

From left: Limeño (pacific cod, calamari, shrimp, scallop, rocoto, onion, cilantro, sweet potato, Andean corn), Langosta (Maine lobster, cocoa juice, mango, papaya, onion, tarragon, vanilla bean oil, serrano chilies, plantain), and ¡Pasion! (ahi tuna, salmon, passion fruit, red onion, yellow pepper, cilantro, purple corn)

Upon first glance at the menu, we knew what we had to order: ceviche. A good portion of the menu is devoted to this marinated seafood salad; they all looked so good that we ordered a trio sampler. I loved the ¡Pasion!, with its slightly sweet and spicy passion fruit puree and chunks of ahi tuna and salmon. The Limeño tied with the ¡Pasion! for my dining companion's ceviche of choice; it was an explosion of citrus, spice, and fresh seafood. The Langosta, while the fanciest of the ceviches with its Maine lobster headliner, was our least favorite, though margarita-lovers may love its sweet and salty blend. We loved tasting each ceviche's own brand of punchy flavors, and agreed that Pasion had truly done the dish justice.

Our plate of albóndigas: lamb meatballs, foie gras sauce, cream sherry, manchego cheese, green peas, and black truffle essence.

For an appetizer, our server recommended albóndigas, commenting that they were quite rich and best shared. We found this a very accurate description! The hearty lamb meatballs were definitely an indulgence, doused in foie gras sauce and black truffle essence. While delicious, my partner and I agreed that it might be a tad too heavy for two people alone.

Our paella, featuring: mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, fish, scallops, chicken chorizo, saffron rice, green peas, and pimentón sofrito.

For our main entree, we shared an order of paella. Our plate (that is, mini paella pan) came bursting with food -- definitely enough for two people, and with leftovers to boot! The seafood was plenty and delicious, and there was even chicken chorizo added for a bit of land-based meat. We've had slightly more flavorful servings of paella elsewhere, but Pasion's was worthwhile in terms of its abundance and variety. There's also a vegetarian version of the dish, but generally there aren't many other meatless menu options.

On our way out, we caught a glimpse of Executive Chef and Owner Jose Calvo-Perez hard at work. All photography by the author.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Pasion. The ambiance and service were above par, and would definitely make for an enjoyable date night, cocktail hour, or intimate gathering. The ceviches were amazing, and we'll absolutely be back to get bigger, better servings! Other offerings on the menu looked quite appetizing, too, but, of course, dinner will cost a bit more than lunch if you're on a student budget. However, if you want a meal with equal parts fun, finesse, and friendliness, Pasion is highly recommended... and did I mention we loved the ceviche?

Julie Dinh
BARE Reporter

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