Restaurants & Bars 4

Lunch at Black Salt

bacchante | Jan 28, 2005 05:57 PM

I was very favorably impressed with our lunch today at Black Salt. It has been open now just over a month, and the dining room was close to full when we arrived at about 12:45. When I had called, I was told we wouldn't need reservations for Friday lunch and to just show up. But if you go for lunch, please don't take this advice. The nice tables in the best part of the dining room appear to be reserved for lunch. There are tables up at the edge of the market part of the establishment, but they are more of the lunchroom-type and don't make for as pleasant an experience. Especially if you are planning on having a regular meal, as opposed to, say, an oyster po' boy and a beer. We happened to get a cozy round booth at the back of the nicer dining room, but unfortunately it had a view down the serving galley. Odd.

On to the food.

We had a very enjoyable potato leek soup, which was full-flavored and topped with some potato slices, which I thought must be their signature home-made chips that are served with the sandwiches.

Three "levels" of oysters were offered, with one or two types in each class. I don't recall the classifications exactly, but it was something like regular (e.g., chincoteague), boutique (e.g., east coast blue points), and premium, at up to $2.50 each for the premium. I had two types of (premium)west coast oysters: deer creek and pebble beach. Both were pristine and very good.

The fried calamari appetizer was a healthy serving of rings and tentacles and was quite good. It is seldom that calamari are so tender and perfectly cooked. Relatively greaseless, they must have been flash-fried in very hot oil. More substantial than the breading on good tempura, it was still very light and crunchy in the mouth and was a bit spicy--totally unlike the dull, leaden, dried-herb-filled breading typically found on fried calamari. The breading was marred only by a heavy hand with the salt, as if to underscore the restaurant's name. The calamari were served with the ponzu dipping sauce mentioned in a thread last month and an excellent remoulade.

The best thing about the meal was wood-roasted monkfish. With a full taste of the wood fire, this is a dish that a non-fish-lover could love. A full-bodied fish like monkfish takes roasting well, and it was fully cooked, but still juicy and very flavorful. Previous reports have mentioned over-cooked fish, but I found the monkfish cooked to my taste. The fish was served on a mound of potatoes anna, with a handful of perfectly-cooked haricots vertes tossed around the plate. All this was finished with a vinegarette with, I think, some citrus and little pork belly pieces. Or perhaps it was pancetta, but it didn't seem to me to be cured. At first, I thought the acid would be jarring, but it turned out to be a nice counterpart to the richness of the monkfish.

As previously posted, two sizes of wine pours are available, beginning at about $5 for 4 oz. I like this because it makes it easier to pair wines with different courses, particularly if one is just a couple of bites. We didn't look at the list of bottles, but there were at least about 8 whites and about as many reds by the glass, with most being from the U.S. We had a nice California viognier that stood up to the rich fish.

We did not have dessert, so no comment there.

Now I'm primed and ready to have dinner there. Before the review comes out in the Post and the place is overwhelmed.

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