Pasión has been open in our Inner Sunset neighborhood for about a year and a half now. We had eagerly anticipated its arrival and had a meal there the first week it opened (review to be posted). It belongs to the Fresca empire (3 locations in SF!) and is helmed by Jose Calvo Perez, specializing in Modern Latin cuisine – fusions of Spanish, Peruvian, Argentinian, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Brazilian and Uruguayan influences.
We had not returned until they started with an amazing set of happy hour options – imho the best happy hour value in the entire Sunset (for folks who like shellfish and cocktails) – with $1 oysters, $5 cocktails (regularly $10) and half-price bar bites (regularly priced at $5- $10). Beers are $4 for drafts, $3 for bottles. There are probably better deals on beer elsewhere, but we go to Pasión for the oysters. Happy Hour runs from 5-7pm Monday-Friday.
There’s a nice patio with small tables in front of the restaurant; sadly, they don’t allow pups in this space. It would give us an additional incentive to dine more often if they did.
But – as I mentioned, we’re primarily there for the oysters, and we’ll usually order a dozen each. Each time we go Miyagis and Blue Points have been on offer. Sometimes we’ll have the option of choosing from both; other times they’ve just served what was available. The oysters are briny fresh, come with lemon wedges, a mango mignonette and a chipotle cocktail sauce. I usually can’t taste the mango in the mignonette, but that does not bother me.
Our drink of choice is the Pisco Sour – the first on their list of Pisco cocktails. I’ve had a couple of their other cocktails, but they’ve turned out to be too sweet for me. The Pisco is done just right.
We’ll usually order some Yucca fries to go with our oysters – these come in a teeny (kawaii!) basket served with a side of huancaina sauce. Peruvian in origin, huancaina is usually made out of some sort of queso fresco, aji amarillo peppers, garlic, onion and evaporated milk. We found that (1) degress of sauce spiciness can vary per visit; and (2) one always needs to ask for a little more extra sauce to cover all the fries. The fries and sauce are usually quite good, but we’ve experienced a time when the yucca had an odd, undercooked taste to them that no amount of sauce could mask.
The other dish above was the Ropa Vieja Empanadas — a play on the ropa vieja of shredded boiled beef leftovers. In this case, the empanadas were stuffed with shredded duck and served with duck confit, frisee salad, currants and a sherry reduction. Though I’ve often said that it’s hard to go wrong with fried stuff, there was something lacking about this plate – a richness that the duck, or crunchy dough exterior might have imparted? A bite of acid that the sherry reduction didn’t provide? Overall, there was a flat sweetness that needed more acid and none of the flavours were very bright.
These calamari, unlike my all-time favourites at Cha-cha-cha, was thinly battered, and thinly fleshed. I don’t mind the thin batter so much as the overtly slender pieces of squid. It made me crave Cha-cha-cha’s thick, voluptuous morsels of crisp-soft deliciousness.
The host has always been courteous and exceptionally helpful. Though the patio and bar seats are technically the only ones designated for happy hour, he once seated us in the internal space but cautioned we would only be able to stay for an hour. That was just fine for us since we had already ordered and had begun to receive some of our dishes, trying to balance them on a chair on the patio (some other patrons had taken all the tables).
Do take care and watch your bill. If you come towards the end of Happy Hour, the server attending to the patio has a tendency to ring up the order at regular prices.
Overall, if you crave oysters, the Happy Hour at Pasión is quite a good deal. Other dishes and cocktails can be good, but are somewhat inconsistent. At the restaurant’s regular prices, you’ll want (and can certainly get) much better.
737 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA