The Mosaic District may get all the fanfare but, across the street, Halstead Square is quietly building up its very own dining scene in Merrifield. Currently, there are seven places to get a meal in the Gallows Road development and while most are visible to passersby, not all are so obvious.
Tucked away off the main street and down the complex’s narrow roadway is Passion Fin. Not to be confused with PassionFish in Reston or the Halstead’s own BlackFinn sports bar just a few yards away, aside from the name, this small sushi bar shares little with the other two. Technically, Passion Fin is billed as Asian fusion but it’s really just all about the sushi here. While there are sections of Chinese,Thai and some grill dishes on the menu, they’re not the specialty here and are mostly extraneous and unnecessary.
Having said that, there is a gem of an appetizer that makes for an excellent starting off point before diving into the fish. At the very top of the app menu sits roti canai, an Indian flatbread dish. Labeled as Indian pancakes, roti canai are much thinner and crispier than traditional flapjacks, more resembling a fried crepe than anything you’d find at IHOP. Here they’re served two to an order, cut into quarters, alongside a spicy and robustly flavored yellow chicken curry filled with green peppers, red onions and tofu. The pancakes are light, flaky and pair delightfully with the curry which could stand to be a touch thicker. The rest of the starter menu consists of the traditional fare –gyoza, shumai, calamari, satay– and there’s also a separate sushi bar app list which mostly pairs fish with a variety of sauces.
When it comes to sushi, there’s all the standard seafood plus harder-to-find items like uni (sea urchin) and botan ebi (jumbo sweet shrimp with the heads fried). Specialty, multi-ingredient stuffed rolls are also available with the Sun Set (salmon, avocado, tuna with a wasabi mayo, eel sauce and masago) and Amazing (spicy crunchy salmon, fresh mango, blackened tuna, sweet shrimp, eel and avocado with a special sauce) as two of its standouts.
One of the areas in which Passion Fin excels is presentation. A sashimi special comes to the table with fish fanned out sitting in a giant bowl of ice adorned with bamboo leaves, thinly sliced lemon, lime, cucumber and other garnish making for an Instagram-worthy post. Perhaps even more impressive, the plating of a selection of maki resembling something you’d find in a window display somewhere, complete with pink lily alongside a group of rolls all perched atop a wooden box housing a pulsating green LED light.
All this spectacle doesn’t come cheap, however, as across the board, Passion Fin is more expensive than other Falls Church joints like Koi Koi and Maneki Neko with prices about 10 to 15 percent higher here.
The restaurant is on the small side – cozy, without feeling cramped – with about 12 tables in the dining room and another eight seats at the sushi bar plus a front bar area. On a weekday during lunch, the dining room was filled by noon, though the sushi bar remained empty. Even during the rush, service was attentive and friendly. While the decor is dark, the restaurant is surprisingly bright considering most of the shades are drawn with two TVs in the front bar and one by the sushi bar (all tuned to sports) helping to keep the place lively.
Passion Fin • 2750 A Gallows Road, Merrifield • 703-204-2969 • passionfinmerrifield.com