I made one of my periodic trips to DC this past week. Casting about for a new place to try, I found BlackSalt Fish Market and Restaurant … not really an easy place to go for a visitor since it’s a 15-20 minute taxi ride out of center city, but very worth the trip. In fact, the crowd at the bar was definitely local and repeat diners, and even the bar-tender commented that they didn’t get too many out-of-towners coming in. Well, this out-of-towner will probably be back next time I’m in DC too.
Up front is the fish market, which with its assorted offerings of fish and prepared foods, adds a visual and appetite stimulant as soon as you walk in. The seaweed salads on display immediately caught my eye, and the fellow behind the counter was glad to explain the different varieties to me.
Walking into the restaurant, the bar / raw bar beckoned. I typically like to eat a restaurant’s bar when I’m traveling; it offers more personal service, frequently better service, and at times social neighbors. BlackSalt had all three for me.
I stated with a glass of prosecco ($12) while checking out the menu. I knew I was going to have some oysters, but after that I was ready to be flexible and see where the menu would take me. The half dozen oysters ($12.60) I selected included three east coast chincoteagues and three west coast sister points. All were excellent, and well-shucked.
I switched to a glass of the sancerre ($12) and proceeded to examine the menu in detail. I wanted something hot next. The braised baby octopus ($9) came in a stew of tomatoes, garlic, parsley, olive oil, and a couple of black olives I think. Very hearty and kind of zesty. Really enjoyable.
Then I was thinking salad. The woman sitting next to me endorsed the beet salad with fresh ricotta and some toasted nuts, but my mind went back to the seaweed salads I saw in the market. Although they weren’t listed on the menu, the bar-tender confirmed that it wouldn’t be a problem to prepare a dish for service; I just needed to figure out which one I wanted. I went back up to the front of the market and re-engaged the guy I had spoken with earlier. We decided that a small sampler plate was the way to go, which let me off the hook for having to make a single choice. A little while later, my trio of seaweed plate ($13) appeared at the bar for me. It comprised a typical hajiki seaweed salad, a seaweed and lotus root salad, and a seaweed and squid salad, this last one having a little spice to it from some red pepper flakes and sesame seed oil. All were enjoyable, and the squid salad was worthy of a separate take-home purchase from the market if I were local.
Now I was ready for some fish. I started with the pacific butterfish with medjool dates and piquillo peppers in a molasses sauce ($14). I’m a big fan of properly prepared piquillo peppers and they worked very well in this combination. The butterfish was perfectly cooked. This is not a full-size main course dish, so I decided to try another. The slow roasted yellowfin tuna belly ($15) was equally perfectly served and melted in my mouth.
Nearing the end now, I asked the bar-tender to call me a taxi to take me back downtown. But before I could leave, I couldn’t pass up a nice selection of artisan cheeses ($12) to finish, accompanied by a glass of port. I don’t recall the exact cheeses, but they were served with some warm nut bread and some sweet spreads (one was honey; another quince, I think).
I was pleased with all of my selections, and really, everything on the menu looked pretty appealing. Service was personal and great, even if I wasn’t one of the regulars. BlackSalt is not inexpensive, but the wide range of offerings let you have a lot of control over how much you eat. My total bill (with tax, but not tip) was $135.
Hmmm, now when’s that next trip to DC going to be…
Black Salt Fish Market & Bar
4883 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20007
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