In case you missed it, here is my review of Passionfish that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.
Whenever I’m asked to recommend a restaurant for seafood, inevitably the conversation turns to Passionfish.
Under the leadership of Ted and Cindy Walter, Passionfish has carved out quite the name for itself among local foodies for their superb selection of sustainable seafood.
But don’t let the name fool you — the menu isn’t just seafood. Chef Ted Walter is certainly an expert when it comes to fish, but you’ll find many tasty selections from terra firma on the menu too.
My friend and I decided to get together for a belated birthday dinner the other week, and chose Passionfish.
We started with the warm brussels sprouts salad ($10). The chopped brussels sprouts were served warm, with chunks of sweet apples, cubed ham and crumbled bits of salty feta, all tossed in a sweet, yet tart, cider vinaigrette.
When I was a kid, I hated brussels sprouts, but now that I’ve grown up, I’m quite taken with these little sprouts. This salad was a little salty, but otherwise offered a nice combination of flavors.
I have a rather unhealthy obsession with duck, so needless to say, a duck confit with a honey reduction ($20) simply sounded too good to pass up.
The sweet honey complemented the savory duck, though any sweeter and it would have been overpowering. I just wish the duck had been crispier.
I quite enjoyed the accompanying side dishes — a smoked chile potato cake and broccolini. On their own, each was packed with powerful flavors: the potato cake was quite spicy; the broccolini had a perfectly bitter bite.
Alone, you’d expect the flavors to clash. But the sweet honey reduction tied together all the disparate flavors.
When some friends were in town last weekend, we again turned to Passionfish to catch up over good food and wine. (Probably too much wine, in retrospect.)
We started off with some small bites, or “nibbles” as Passionfish calls them.
The Portobello mushroom fries with aioli ($4) were cut thick, with three pieces per an order. The crispy outside was a nice contrast to the tender mushroom inside.
Smoked bacon fritters ($7) were little fried nuggets of thick-cut bacon. The accompanying spicy Vietnamese dipping sauce was sweet and spicy, the perfect pairing for salty, smoky chunks of bacon.
The smoked Arctic char ceviche ($5) included two little tostaditas topped with a cashew pesto, a spicy salsa brava and chunks of flavorful Arctic char.
After our round of “nibbles,” we settled in for dinner.
I started with one of the evening specials, with Berkshire pork tortellini in bacon broth ($10). These were fantastic, the bacon broth was a nice touch — and I wish I’d had a spoon to scoop up every drop!
For my entrée, I decided I’d order something “from the waters” this time. I ordered Passionfish’s famous sea scallops, served with tomato-truffle butter, savory rice pudding and braised celery ($26).
The tomato-truffle butter was oddly addictive. At first, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have enough truffle taste. But bite after bite, the flavors blossomed. By the end, it took all my willpower not to lick the plate clean!
We split two desserts. The chocolate truffle torte ($6) was a dense flourless cake. The drizzle of blood orange syrup added a nice touch of sugar.
The butterscotch pudding with salted caramel ($5) was a little gritty for my tastes. I appreciated that the caramel was salty, a good contrast to the sweet pudding.
I appreciate how much attention Passionfish pays to its wine list — and how unpretentious they are about wine.
The wines are reasonably priced, with some nice selections to pair with Chef Walter’s food. Our server recommended a glass of a Thomas Fogarty chardonnay ($9 per glass). Normally I’m not a fan of chardonnays, but this one turned out to be a great match for the scallops.
From the host to the bussers, the hospitality at Passionfish is top-notch. At both dinners, our servers — Travers and Lindsay — were attentive, but not overbearing. The servers and bussers worked together seamlessly to take our order, deliver food and clear plates.
Whether your preference is land or sea, a date night or a group get-together, Passionfish makes for a delicious dinner out.
Passionfish is at 701 Lighthouse Ave. in Pacific Grove. 655-3311. www.passionfish.net.