100 Best Restaurants 2011: PassionFish

No. 30

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Two years after its opening in Reston Town Center, the fifth restaurant in Jeff Tunks’s local empire has emerged as Washington’s preeminent destination for seafood. Yes, the setting is bland and the staff can be scripted and pushy, but the quality of the fish is first-rate—the day’s haul is displayed atop a mound of shaved ice—and the kitchen, under the direction of chef Chris Clime, showcases them skillfully.

Thickly sliced hamachi is served raw and accented with jalapeño and grapefruit; Ipswich clams are beautifully fried; a whole flounder becomes a tour de force performance, each side scored and coated in rice flour, pan-fried, and presented with two vivid sauces.

There are small gifts to start (smoked fish and crostini) and finish (squares of heavenly hash accompany the check). The interesting wine list is fairly priced, and desserts—by pastry chef David Guas—are both rich and light. On weekend nights, Northern Virginia’s tech class seems to descend on the multitiered space, lending a big-night air. It’s deserved.

Also good: Chilled lobster claw; shrimp cocktail; a dip inspired by clams casino; lobster red curry; any of that day’s fish, simply grilled and sauced; house-made doughnuts with coffee Bavarian cream.

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday and Sunday for dinner. Expensive.

>> See all of 2011's Best Restaurants

 

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.