A visit to Black Salt restaurant, the newest of Jeff Black's restaurants (he of Addie's in Rockville and Black's Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda fame), this one in the Palisades area of DC on MacArthur Blvd.:
The fish counter greeting you as you enter the industrial chic (but not noisy!) space is a nice touch and a reminder that many of the seafood items on the menu are terrific and fresh.
To cut to the chase on the food, the bread, which comes from Marvelous Market next door, is reliably fresh, warm and crusty, a mixture of ciabatta and olive bread slices and is served with a nice mixture of minced black olives and olive oil. We had to ask for more of the oil but the mixture tasted very good.
There is a good selection of wines by the glass and classic cocktails, including such oldies but goodies as the Sidecar, the Harvey Wallbanger, and a Gimlet. I had a very good, rarely seen, nicely dry but not too dry Douglas Green sauvignon blanc which went well with my food. My husband had a good sized vodka martini which could have been a little drier but didn't bother him too much.
As in restaurants such as Jaleo and Zaytinya, there are small plates to choose from in addition to bigger appetizers. My husband ordered a small plate of a grilled sardine which was moist and had a nice, subtle grilled taste. I ordered the special of clam and oyster stew which was perfectly creamy but not too rich and mixed with a good combination of leeks and pancetta. In all a delicious, subtly flavored mixture.
For entrees, I ordered the special of wood grilled lobster with sauteed beet greens and squid ink rice. While the lobster tasted well grilled, there was not enough meat to justify the $29 price (the lady next to me ordered the same thing and got much more claw meat). But the greens were nicely sauteed so as to be just crisp enough and the rice had a nutty texture that was attractive. The restaurant, which when we went, was only in its fourth night of service, can work on improving that dish just a little bit so as to justify the price. Otherwise it was fine. My husband's Zarzuela seafood stew was perfect, a mixture of excellently cooked rockfish, shrimp, mussels and serrano ham in a saffron and garlic-accented broth with chopped tomatoes. The broth alone made both of us grab more and more bread to sop up the delicious sauce. That dish definitely needs no fine tuning.
For dessert we both had the pumpkin torte with pecan caramel tuile. The tuile was nice and crunchy - very tasty and, while the torte, really a glorified pumpkin pie, tasted fine, it wasn't glorious. But it was nice and autumnal tasting and came with candied ginger peels on top of whipped cream.
Black Salt offers both French press coffee and drip coffee. For those who like coffee well-flavored, I recommend the French press, though it isn't as strong as Starbuck's.
The service at Black Salt is both friendly and professional and it was heartening to see a good sized crowd in the restaurant on only its fourth night of service. A harbinger of good things to come. Clearly, Black Salt is a welcome addition to that stretch of MacArthur Blvd. which includes a new French restaurant on the other side of the street, Cafe Ettore (replacing Bistro Bernoise), and a Chinese restaurant, also on the other side.
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