Yeslin Greason plans to open her Latin fusion restaurant, Pasión, later this month. Greason had always hoped to open such a restaurant in Buffalo. But things fell perfectly into place when the former Black Swan location (and Cozumel before that) came onto the market, and she just happened to make the acquaintance of Chef Manuel Cruz, who will be running the kitchen at Pasión. I recently had an opportunity to meet with Greason and her crew and take a tour of the building.
Greason has big plans for the exterior of the building that include an outside bar, fire pit, and year-round patio. And Cruz mentioned that he will take advantage of the space by holding the occasional outdoor pig roast, Cuban style. Greason intends to brighten up the interior by incorporating a natural aesthetic into its design, revising the color scheme, and adding fresh flowers at the bar. And Latin music will help to create a warm and celebratory atmosphere at Pasión.
Born in Venezuela, Greason hopes to introduce some of her favorite meals (including desserts) from home to Western New York. Customers can also expect to sample a variety of dishes from Peru, Cuba, Miami, and Spain. I had a chance to experience some of Cruz’s creations during my visit. One dish that stood out was his ‘sexy’ Cuban black bean soup topped with cumin and garlic infused sour cream. I was impressed by the fact that Cruz was able to produce such a deep and well-balanced flavor in an entirely vegetarian soup. It also had an incredibly delicate, creamy, and luxuriant mouth feel. It is clearly to Cruz’s credit as a chef that he was able to create such a memorable dish from the humble black bean. In addition to Cuban black bean soup, customers at Pasión can expect to see arepas, croquettas, fried pork belly, steak skewer, ceviche, and cod fish fritters on the menu.
Pasión will also serve an authentic Cuban sandwich. Greason insisted that the restaurant will not do anything at the restaurant that cannot be done right. The Cuban sandwich is no exception. The bread will be made locally and the sandwich pressed to perfection (with a flat press, not a panini press, mind you) in the kitchen. And if you need an energy boost after polishing off your sandwich, you can order a cortadito (a Cuban-style espresso that is pre-sweetened and topped with steamed milk).
Josh Campbell, who will be managing the bar, assured me that I will be able to order all of my favorite Latin American cocktails at Pasión, including Mojitos and Cuba Libres. And customers who visit Pasión in groups will be to enjoy its punch and sangria service. During my visit, I sampled Campbell’s ‘plantain punch’ and it completely transformed my understanding of punch, which I had previously and naively underestimated. It was easily one of the most delicious and sophisticated beverages that I have ever tasted. While I managed to procure Campbell’s secret recipe (which I promised not to publish here), I will not be preparing it any time soon due to its complexity and daunting list of ingredients. Instead, I will take full advantage of Campbell’s artistry and enjoy it at Pasión whenever I have the chance.
Dancers of Western New York will be thrilled to hear that Pasión plans to host a ‘tropical night’ that will feature salsa and merengue, as well as Afro-Cuban rhythms. They will also have happy hours specials that include grilled oysters. And while Greason has not yet posted Pasión’s permanent hours, she mentioned that the kitchen would stay open late to accommodate those who do not keep regular working hours.
Pasión has the potential to expand the local food scene and introduce many Western New Yorkers to a cuisine that is currently underrepresented here. Greason and her team have a great concept and the talent and pasión to bring it to life. I look forward to watching the restaurant unfold in the months to come and will most certainly be back for more.