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BlackSalt, MacArthur Boulevard in Palisades - Chef Mike Huff Comes From Naples, Italy

165 posts in this topic

[posted on eGullet 2005]

Finally got to BlackSalt last night for dinner (9 pm res) and had an enjoyable meal. The restaurant was bustling when we arrived and we started with a nice glass of wine at the bar while our table was being prepared. We decided to order 2 small plates and 2 apps while we decided what to have for our main course. We asked our waiter if this would be a problem, and he said it was fine and that the 2 small plates would arrive first and then the apps. Well the apps came out first, followed a little bit later by our small plates. Not a huge problem, but I would have been happier without having all 4 plates on the table at once. Also our waiter told us that everything on the menu was wonderful and that all of our selections were perfect. Overall the service was acceptable and what I expected.

The small plates that we ordered were the white anchovy and baby octopus. The appetizers were the rock fish cheeks and foie gras and a market special tuna ceviche with lime aioli and avocado. The anchovies, as previously mentioned were wonderful and by far the best of the 4 plates. The rock fish and foie gras combined well with the pureed and crispy potato that they were served with. The next 2 dishes were disappointing. The baby octopus was on the tough side and tasted predominately of lemon zest. I do not recall the exact preparation at this time, but remember looking back at the menu to see what else this dish was supposed to be in the dish as I could not taste much of anything else. The tuna ceviche was not what I expected and I dubbed this dish, tuna nachos. On the plate were 3 corn tortilla chips, resting on some greens, which were topped with avocado, lime aioli, a piece of tuna, and finally a piece of pink grapefruit. The wonderfully fresh tuna, which I sampled a piece of by itself, was completely overwhelmed by the lime aioli. I felt like I was eating a chips and dip.

For our entrees I had the herb crusted long fin tuna with mushroom risotto while my friend had the bourride. The tuna was cooked on the rare side of the medium rare that I ordered it and was delicious. The spices on the fish, the earthy taste and creamy texture of the mushroom risotto complimented each other wonderfully. The tuna was also served with some greens and topped with pieces of pink grapefruit and some black olives, which seem to be a favorite condiment. The dish was also served with I braved the potential scallop health hazard and tried of piece of fish (that was far away from the scallop tongue.gif ) from the bourride. I really enjoyed the delicate licorice flavor and creamy texture with the piece of fish.

For dessert we shared a piece of the chocolate peanut crunch cake (or something closely fitting that description), that we were told was the pastry chef's signature dish. It was a wonderful way to finish the meal and I recommend trying it.

The total bill for dinner with 2 glasses of wine and tea was $132 and I was pleased with my meal and look forward to returning and trying some more of the dishes on the menu. I still think it has a little way to go before it can be compared to the top restaurants in the area.

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[posted on eGullet 2003-2004]

Joe, we can respectfully disagree, right? I had this dish last week, and while the mussels were excellent, even outstanding, I found it to be a microcosm of what I've experienced at BlackSalt: very fresh seafood that tends to be well-prepared but ultimately succumbing to heavyhanded saucing. I found the feta cheese in this dish offputting, for example, although I agree with you about the preserved lemon being a wonderful addition. I could go through various examples of strange ingredients in the sauces: a turmeric(?)-laden aioli with the salty bourride which was chock full of superb seafood, a honey-based sauce which overwhelmed and ruined an otherwise decent (but very expensive) opah belly sashimi; but I could also come up with an example of how poorly-prepared seafood ruined an otherwise excellent saucing (the overcooked $31 lobster dish in a wonderfully subtle and elegant sauce which was brought to life by what seemed to be vanilla. I didn't really want to express an opinion on BlackSalt until I had at least one more visit there, but I do think some of this early enthusiasm needs to be kept in check, especially in light of the glaring service problems which will hopefully be resolved in the near future. By the way, there are many positives I've seen at this interesting restaurant as well: a dozen raw oysters went back from the bar to the kitchen, and I watched one of the chefs carefully inspect each-and-every-one before allowing the order to go out to the table. The $4-5 small plates I've tried have all been really good. They have a good, fairly-priced Cotes-du-Rhone rouge (yes, rouge) by the glass that goes well with many items on their menu. My early impression of the desserts is that they are terrific - and what great cookies they have! Let me close by saying that I like BlackSalt very much for what it is, and will happily return in the near future, ordering carefully when I do. It seems to be a fantastic addition to that neighborhood, and one more reason why Washington DC has indeed become a great dining town.

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The other being Cornucopia, a deli on Woodmont (?) in Bethesda.

They're real purdy.

BlackSalt has had one [a vertical hand-cranked proscuitto slicer] for a while. Not sure whether Cornucopia's preceded it. But Dino's definitely was not the first.

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Yesterday was my first time back to Blacksalt since a private party blowout shortly after it opened. Despite the fact that the weather outside was dreadful yesterday (something over four inches of rain for the day), the lunch scene was bustling. We were looking for something steaming hot and soothing, but easy on the cholesterol. A wagyu burger or deepfried frogs legs, or a charcuterie plate just wasn't what appealed this lunch.

It seems that Blacksalt has hit its stride - and hit the spot.

We started with a simple salad of organic arugula with a few generous thin shingles of shaved pecorino and a vinaigrette of preserved lemons, with some of the lemon peel as garnish. This was accompanied by warm french bread and sweet cubes of corn bread.

For lunch entrees we had a hickory grilled organic salmon resting in a light kaffir lime coconut broth. It shared the plate with a simple mound of basmati rice and stir-fried organic greens. Perfectly simple and simply perfect. The other main dish was a wood roasted monkfish with blue shell mussels and small pieces of chorizo, in a light tomato broth with herbs and pearl pasta. The broth was strengthened with some green and black olives and generously studded with garlic. It came to the table steaming hot, the fish still moist and tasting of the wood and the smokiness and kick of the chorizo and again, perfect for a wet chilly afternoon.

Plenty of free parking, and proximity to the wonderful wine shop next door.

copyofblacksaltroastmonkfish10.jpg

There was nothing muddled or over-sauced about these dishes - the fish starred and the other ingredients were fresh and flavorful without overwhelming the star.

Edited by crackers

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After my experience earlier this week, I was thoroughly surprised to find that there has been little to no recent discussion about this gem on the board. Here's my attempt at bringing it back into the DR.com consciousness...

My guest and I hung around the bar for a while waiting for our table on a packed Tuesday night. The eating started with the Baby Octopus small plate and a single Serrano-wrapped Gulf Shrimp. As if the main items themselves weren't delectable enough, I forewent the tapenade poured for the bread and instead mopped up the red chili, garlic, and tomato mixture. I would've been happy enjoying the intensity of those flavors for the rest of the evening.

The real treat began when we sat down for the real deal. I started with the Proscuitto-wrapped Monkfish (apparently the chef has a penchant for wrapping things in ham, which I have no problem at all with), while my guest went for the Grilled Calamari. When they arrived, my first thought was "wow, they are big enough to be entrees themselves". My worries of being able to finish my actual entree and dessert were assuaged as I took my first bite of a steaming piece of flaky monkfish wrapped in a juicy strip of proscuitto. My guest's calamari was equally fine as well, carrying the appropriate amount of flavor from the grill. We refrained from using our bread to mop up the accompanying sauces to these dishes in our attempts to conserve our appetites!

To the mains...I decided to tackle the Zarzuela (Spanish stew). This was a melange of seafood (red snapper, shrimp, and mussels) served with serrano ham and other delicious things in a lovely broth (perfect for a cold winter night). My guest enjoyed a mahi-mahi in a curry broth. The flavors in this dish were very well-defined and I was impressed that the curry did not overpower the flavor of the fish. Finally, though we were defying our stomachs, we split the Trio of Creme Brulees. The presentation of this dessert is one of the best I've ever seen for creme brulee. Three separate mini-dishes of brulee (vanilla-orange, coffee, and chocolate-cinnamon) each had their own distinctive garnish that added height and visual appeal to a final product that can only be described as tasty all-around.

Two final notes...Out of the many different types and preparations of seafood my guest and I experienced that night, all of it was perfectly cooked (save for the piece of red snapper I left buried for too long in the saffron broth, underneath the mountain of mussels). Given the typical difficulty of cooking seafood just right, I was impressed with the consistency. Secondly, the service was equally positive that evening. Our waiter interspersed the right amount of humor, accomodated special requests with ease, and remained attentive without hovering.

For this foodie's palate, Blacksalt has moved ahead of DC Coast, Johnny's, and Kinkead's when it comes to THE DC seafood place to go. If I am being delusional, happened to experience a particularly good night, or drank one too many glasses of the Viognier, please someone set me straight!

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Based on a lunch mdt and I had there just before Thanksgiving, it looks like Blacksalt is really improving. On my first few visits there, the last being about 4 months ago, I thought the conception and execution of most of the dishes was disappointing-- top-notch seafood drowned in heavy spices, sauces, and lots of cream. However, the seafood stew I had those couple of weeks ago was very good (ok, still maybe a bit too much butter and aioli, but... )

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Black Salt was this good soon after it opened. Perhaps it was more inconsistent but there are reasons why Washingtonian voted this D. C.'s best new restaurant in 2005. I hosted a dinner there last February for 50 similar to the Lab dinner a week or so ago. (Photos were posted on here.) At the time it had not been reviewed by anyone yet I trusted my judgment based on a half dozen meals that this was a serious restaurant capable of very real excellence. About the various seafood stews: there are eight of them which rotate with two fairly consistent every evening. Similar to Kinkead's they are outstanding. Frying here is high art. For the desserts I should just note that for both Thnksgiving and Christmas even though I cook both meals myself I still drive in and buy pies from Black Salt to take home. My wife and I have driven in from Reston numerous times over the year it has been open. We are lucky to have this restaurant here; it is, indeed, excellent and on par with Kinkead's at its best.

Edited by Joe H

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As he has done with Addie's and Black's Bar and Kitchen, Jeff Black has turned over the day-to-day running of the kitchen at BlackSalt to a trusted chef he has trained and worked with for several years. Joey Zumpano is now the Executive Chef at BlackSalt, and Jeff is only an occasional presence in the kitchen. I had lunch there the day after Thanksgiving, and everything was as good as ever. Jeff has told me that right now he is focusing on the major renovation of Black's in Bethesda.

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My number 1 choice for a seafood meal in the area. I really enjoy lunch there as the pace is a bit slower.

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My daughter and seven of her closest girlfriends took over my kitchen to prepare a meal for themselves, and it seemed like the best thing to do was to leave the house and hope for the best. Jonathan and i walked up the street and went into BlackSalt. We found seats at the bar, greeted old friends on the staff and had a terrific small meal.

I had a demitasse of lobster bisque which was creamy and full flavored with a bit of salty crunch of some mini croutons to balance the sweetness of the lobster. J had a half dozen oysters--Wellfleets, Malpeques and something else. They were fresh and briny. I followed that with a gorgeous piece of sable in a Thai curry broth enriched with coconut milk. The fish was crisped on the outside and perfectly cooked--delicate, white buttery flesh that melts in the mouth and tasted so fresh and clean. J had his perennial favorite fried whole belly clams. They really do fry right there. We shared a warm chocolate cake with Grand Marnier ice cream.

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Zora, I'm just curious but do you know if Susan ever does caramel pecan ice cream?

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Zora, I'm just curious but do you know if Susan ever does caramel pecan ice cream?

Dunno. But if you called and asked, she'd probably make it for you--so you could compare it with your own, I presume.

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In the eight plus years we've been married, jenrus and I have expanded our culinary horizons, becoming more discerning and adventurous. There have been items I've prodded her to try and she's introduced me to new cuisines as well.

So it is always a thrill when one of us comes around to appreciate something that the other one likes. Last night it was mussels, thanks to Blacksalt at my company's holiday dinner.

Their lightly spicy Spanish mussels, with chorizo and a saffron romesco sauce helped her come around on the subject. "These are much better than the ones you made," she said across the table "They're so plump and tender. Yours were really chewy. And I liked this broth better, too"

Thanks for the compliments, sweetie.

But I guess it isn't shameful for an amateur cook to be outclassed by the cooking coming out of this kitchen. Top quality raw ingredients and an increasingly light and confindent touch. Even if I had the recipe, it would be tough for me to keep up with that.

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I just got positive confirmation that Doug Mason, the wine director at Black Salt, is leaving at the end of February. He'd worked at Persimmon in Bethesda previous to this. He's a very good guy and I hope that he lands on his feet somewhere. If you happen to visit Black Salt, wish him well!

Edited by Joe Riley

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My understanding is that, unless something has changed in the past couple of weeks, Doug is moving up to become wine director for all four of the Black Group restaurants (Addie's, Black's Bar and Kitchen, Black Market Bistro and BlackSalt). His duties as General Manager of BlackSalt are being taken over by Jason Sullivan, who has worked for Jeff Black for many years, primarily as a bartender. Last time I was in, Doug was still there, but Jason told me that he was enjoying his new role after resisting pressure for years from Jeff to come out from behind the bar. But Doug will still be choosing the wines for BlackSalt...

Edited by zoramargolis

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I found this at Craig's List:

"Black Salt is seeking a Wine Director/Restaurant Manager"

(the rest is posted in the employment thread)

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Went there last night around 8:30pm. Just in the mood for something light.

We had a perfectly grilled sardine, halibut cheeks (perfect- crisp nice fava bean sauce), some wonderful white anchovies (2 small guys) with a distracting accompaniment of citrus zest (something we saw too much of last night) celery and parsley but on the whole wonderful, braised octopus (5 half octopi, a little tough, tomatoes out of a can, pretty bland except for the chili hit), and a small piece of skate wing in appetizer (half way to raw in the center on one side, with a busy lentil salad Kay loved, I didn't- a big dissapointment for me and a small one for Kay).

The three small plates (anchovy, sardine, octopi) were really small. The apps were half entrees, basically.

3 Red Seal Ales (wonderful stuff from North Coast Brewing, contract brewed on the East Coast if I recall, but tasting might close to what you get there in Ft. Brag.

The wine list is priced at least at triple wholesale (which is twice retail) for pretty run of the mill stuff. A few gems if you are willing to go outside the chardonnay sauv blanc world, but that was one mighty fine beer in comparison the the wines at those prices.

We left a little hungry considering we dropped $64.00. Would love to go back on someone else's nicle and eat oysters and try the sushi but maybe not on my nickle.

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Congratulations to Jeff Black on winning the RAMMY as D. C.'s best new restaurant. Everyone knows that I have enthusiastically endorsed him and his pastry chef Susan Wallace even hosting a private dinner there several months after it opened. In part because of several of the dishes from that dinner I believe the potential is there for a truly great restaurant. This statement is particularly timely considering the reopening of his restaurant, Black's, in Bethesda. Montgomery county has long lacked a restaurant on par with D. C.'s best. Could Black's be knocking on that door?

Black's has a "soft opening" TONIGHT and there are still several reservations available as I type this. (We are going!) 301-652-6278.

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My wife and I dined here last weekend and were very happy with this dining choice.

I'd originally planned to go this weekend, but then went back to OpenTable and realized they had an early time slot open on Sunday so we took it (530pm). We'd just skip lunch.

Found a parking spot right out front and no need to feed the meter on the weekend. The front of the place is definitely the market and it looked like it was winding down when we walked in. The host-person was on the ohone when we got there and it looked like the staff were all in the kitchen getting some quick tastes and instructions on specials presumably. The host-person never really acknowledged us when we walked up and she continued her conversation. A couple of minutes later she was done. She checked our ressie and then said she'd be right back saying that she needed to check to see if they needed to set up the table. She came back saying yes they would have to do so and we waiting another couple of minutes. Then she took us to a table that we saw from our spot waiting that was already made up and didn't and wasn't remade up.

Odd.

But the rest of the evening was very nice. The waiter was interested in helping us have a good time and we discussed the wine we'd brought along for a bit as he seemed interested in wine (it was a 2000 Kistler Durrell Chard). After listening to his review of the menu we settled in for a good read of it, the menu.

I must say that I have not had a more difficult to choose from menu in quite a while. Wow, it all sounded so good. I believe I had a couple of small plates, an appetizer and an entree and my wife had the same less one of the small plates. I had some baby octopus (very good, but I am still in search of a small, but not baby, octopus, that is prepared simply, maybe smoked, that could hold a candle to what I had at Trattoria Battibeco in Bolognaa, Italy), and a grilled sardine with lemon and something else (very good and simply prepared), followed by skate wing (really great!) and Red Puppy Drum for the entree (never having heard of this before, I had to try it, especially with the accompaniments and morels --great stuff). My wife had some salt cod croquettes with Piquillo Pepperonata that were simply sublime, a very nice tian (she liked it a lot) and this halibut that was simply great. With no room for dessert, we opted for some coffee (their idea of a cup is quite large!) that we lingered over for a while.

Our waiter (Quinn?) was great and his service and the food made the evening for us. A short walk around the block through the neighborhood to walk off some of the dinner and we were off on our way back home.

I'd recommend this place to anyone. I expect to go back again soon.

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going to blacksalt for the first time tonight. any recent visitors have any recommendations for can't miss dishes? thanks!

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Something fried. They have a light hand when it comes to breading and a stead hand once they drop it in the oil.

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