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Black's Bar and Kitchen, Bethesda - Chef Dane Sewlall on Woodmont and Norfolk Avenue


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Bar Oysters - $1.35 each. Their menu says "We are Currently Receiving the Freshest Oysters Available on the East Coast," and I have no reason to doubt them. The problem lies with the word "receiving." Figuring the bar oysters would be whatever they had the most of, or weren't selling that night, I ordered a dozen. To my horror, the bartender began pulling preshucked oysters out from beneath the bar. He assembled the platter, then walked it back to the kitchen, where the chef took hold of it, and like the Road Runner pecking at bird seed, leaned down and gave a fake millisecond-long sniff to about four of the oysters. It was the same shtick they put on at BlackSalt, but he wasn't actually smelling them; he was simply putting on a show - it reminded me of what I've recently seen twice at an otherwise great wine bar (Taberna del Alabardero), where the bartender opens the bottle, touches the cork to his nose without sniffing it, and then pours the glass of wine. Please don't bother doing this stuff: It's pretentious and anyone who knows what they're doing will realize you're just going through the motions. The platter arrived, and the oysters looked good and fresh, and when I smelled one myself, there was no odor. That's because icing down an oyster can work wonders in terms of masking its flaws; it's only when you eat it, and the temperature quickly rises inside your mouth to 60, 70, 80 degrees up to a theoretical maximum of 98.6 - that's the moment of truth, and that's when oysters that haven't been freshly shucked reveal their flaws, which lie entirely in the finish and not in the nose, tasting like bad sea urchin.

'How are the oysters?' the bartender asked, after I had eaten one.

'When were they shucked? The first one I had wasn't fresh.'

'Oh, about an hour ago. They shuck them for Happy Hour and keep the extras on ice.' This conversation took place at 9 PM this evening.

The Black's Seafood Gumbo was not cooked properly. The shrimp was still cold - colder than room temperature - but the andouille sausage was piping hot. Three bites and done with it.

The beer and wine list is laughable.

Fifty bucks wasted.
Rocks

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Once again spending his money so that we don't have to.  Thanks!

Pleased to be of service. Oysters are bivalves for a reason, and it isn't to protect them from predators in the sea; it's to keep them fresh between harvest and shuck.

The bartender was very professional and friendly, and he even offered to shuck another dozen oysters if the order didn't pan out. There are also two other categories of oysters above the Bar Oyster level: In retrospect, I think $1.75 gets you freshly shucked, and $2.25+ gets you a boutique variety. The Bar Oysters may in fact be a good dining option during early Happy Hour, as opposed to using them as an attempt to economize on a late-night snack. Nothing here was uncorrectable, by the way; the meal was just a bad blip in time.

And rest assured, it wasn't any worse than what I had just endured immediately before at Tako Grill.

Cheers,

Rocks

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In defense of Black's, their half-priced burgers on Monday are a treat. They include nicely shaved onions and very good fries.

Also, during happy hour the oysters are (or were the last time I went) freshly-shucked and $.50 a pop. Well worth the trip.

Still... pre-shucked oysters? That's criminal.

Alex

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We used to adore Addie's and Black's Bar and Kitchen. The latter started to lose it about a year ago - I had a dish that simply didn't work. The ingredients didn't work together at all.

We have a 3-strikes rule. We figure one bad meal can be a fluke, an off-night, a bad dish on an otherwise solid menu. Second time, the restaurant is definitely slipping, and third time, it is off our list.

We never got to three strikes with Black's because we struck the entire Black's empire off our list when they refused to give us reservations at the place in Garrett Park so my handicapped mother wouldn't have to stand and wait for a table. They were absolutely inflexible about it, claiming that if we drove up right away there would be no wait. We live 10 minutes from Garrett Park and it was just before 6 p.m. (earlier than we wanted to eat, but...) so we ran up there - and every table was occupied. There were two places to sit at wait - at the extremely cramped little bar, which sits directly between the kitchen and the tables, so the waitstaff was squeezing by every few seconds, or a rickety chair out in the cold, empty hallway.

I don't miss them (or the overly-warm wine they served at Black's, because they didn't have proper storage...). I also don't miss their arrogant attitude towards customer preference. They have a good burger, but refuse to give you steak sauce - I hate catsup. The waitstaff were very apologetic about the chef's inflexible insistence that people eat his food his way (must have interned with Carole Greenwood).

Though I did enjoy the occasional meltdown in the kitchen (chef screaming at the top of his lungs). We called it the "Floor Show."

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I wonder who truly pays the price: the customer or the restaurantuer. Frankly, I agree with Joe's friend: if I'm paying the check, I'll have my steak any damned way I please. Fortunately for me, whenever I'm asked how I want something prepared, I ususally tell the person taking my order that I'll have it whatever way the chef thinks it should be prepared. One of the things I'm paying for at a restaurant is the skill, experience and talent of the chef. But, if I want A1 steaksauce with my corned beef hash, by God, if they have it, they better think twice before refusing to bring it out.

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I wonder who truly pays the price: the customer or the restaurantuer.  Frankly, I agree with Joe's friend:  if I'm paying the check, I'll have my steak any damned way I please.  Fortunately for me, whenever I'm asked how I want something prepared, I ususally tell the person taking my order that I'll have it whatever way the chef thinks it should be prepared.  One of the things I'm paying for at a restaurant is the skill, experience and talent of the chef.  But, if I want A1 steaksauce with my corned beef hash, by God, if they have it, they better think twice before refusing to bring it out.

Now we're talking!!!!!!!!!!!!! A1 steak sauce DOES go well with corned beef hash!

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Wow. The people on this board are just great. I knew I'd found a home when I saw all the rants about adding an "e" to words like "grill" - that drives me batty! I too have often joked about pronouncing the "e" just to show people how silly it is.

So, on Black's Market and Bistro - when I called, I spoke to someone who sounded like a teenager and the hostess was a teenager. I doubt it was Christine, as it sounds, from your description, as though she is an adult.

I did call the next day, and I left my name, number, and a phone message saying that I'd like to talk to the manager, briefly explaining why. I never got a call back.

On the steak sauce - at the risk that Michael Landrumm will never let me in the door again, let me explain that I would NEVER put steak sauce on a steak. Any steak, not that I would ever eat a steak that wasn't blessed by Michael Landrumm anyway. No, steak sauce goes only on burgers, and I've never had Heinz 57. We have a variety of steak sauces in this house - I actually love to put a little bit of Busha Brownee's Jerk Sauce on my burgers.

I just can't fathom why they don't banish catsup...if they are so committed to having the food eaten the way they want it eaten. Surely catsup is at least as vile as steak sauce? I mean, it is sugar (actually high fructose corn syrup), vinegar, and tomatoes.

If anything can mask the taste of food, surely that can?

By the way, we've also been told at Black's Kitchen that we can only have the burgers if we sit outside. They aren't on the menu (at least they weren't at the time we stopped eating there). We were told that they won't serve them inside. So, if it is too cold or too hot to eat outside, you better want to order something else.

To leave you all with a happy food idea - try the Tropical Forbidden Black Rice at Whole Food Market. Happy mouth! Happy mouth!

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The oysters here looked just fine - they had plenty of unshucked ones sitting on ice.

[Pappy's post about Clyde's moved here.]

They're still good at Crisfield's too, in Silver Spring. I was there a couple of weeks ago.

Nice and cold, could have been a bit saltier. 8.50 a half dozen, I ordered a dozen and got 15 or 16.

Their clams are good too.

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I saw a notice that Black's is re-opening on June 19. As stated on another Web site:

Black's Bar & Kitchen -- This Bethesda fine and fun dining mainstay reopens June 19 after a $2.5 million floor-to-ceiling makeover. Expect an innovative, funky, contemporary decor and Executive Chef Mallory Buford's Modern American menu rich with local flavor. There are lots of new design, menu and décor features. One in particular deserving of mention is the glass-enclosed, temperature controlled wine room holding up to 1,500 bottles in stainless steel racks with a total stock of 5,000+ bottles available. (7750 Woodmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD; 301.652.6278)

That whole block is being renovated (new condo building will go up on the corner of Woodmont & Old Georgetown Road). I'll try and slink by for a look-see next week.

JA

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Montgomery County has long been a relative wasteland for dining excellence. Despite the many ambitious attempts to rival D. C. few restaurants, if any, have approached U street, let alone K street. Or 21st and Penn or 30th and M. Addie's, Cesco, the Old Angler's Inn-for decades the County has fallen well short of the top tier destination restaurants of the District. For a half century or more lower County residents shrugged off this lack of distinction and drove down Reno road, Connecticut avenue, MacArthur Blvd. or 16th street to tastes and textures that the county had never known. With a County owned liquor and wine dispensary and an accepted standard of upscale shopping center restaurant ambience Bethesda, especially Bethesda, fell far short of what other Washingtonians had almost taken for granted.

Tonight that forever changed.

Jeff and Barbara Black won the Rammy award for D. C.'s best new restaurant, Black Salt, this past week. Tonight they opened a totally new and different-and upscale-Black's Bar and Kitchen on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda.

Black Salt, Washington's best new restaurant of '06, is a distant second.

From the outside black block letters announce Black's framed with fiery red lighting with a backdrop of large panels of black glass. The outdoor patio which encircles an open stone pond leads to a dramatic entrance into a dining room worthy of Manhattan or Dallas. The James Beard award winning Stephen Pyles would feel at home here. To the left is a communal table for ten, an oyster bar, a ten or 12 seat sitdown bar which is framed behind by three seven by seven foot dark red glass panels and a number of tables flanked to the side against a far wall. To the right is the dining room: earthtoned patterns from light tan to dark brown , a far wall with a 100 foot long photographic panorama of Tuscany tinted with a brown hue, rust colored carpeting, subdued supper club recessed lighting and a glass enclosed, floor to ceiling, twenty foot long wine cellar center stage. Swanky. Southwestern. Uptown Dallas or Houston where Jeff Black is from.

This could not be Montgomery County.

Two hundred and sixty labels on the wine list with twenty two bottles by the glass. From Emilio Moro to Caymus Special Select to Marquis Phillips-and with very fair prices. Not only Montgomery County's best list but one of the best and most thoughtful in the D. C. area. A shock to find this type of intelligence and pricing north of Western avenue.

The format is similar to Black Salt: oysters (Bay, boutique and premium), small plates, soups, salads and appetizers, "composed plates" and, in an interesting and unique twist, seven features from the wood grill with the option for seven different sauces.

The first small plate we tried was a Great Dish: sesame fried oyster over Asian slaw with pickled ginger. Jeff Black has always excelled with his frying: I once justly claimed that his fried whole bellied clams were the equal of any in Essex. Other fried seafood of his I put on par with Al Porto's fritto misto in Milan or Al Covo's in Venice. Simply, the man is a genius with something so simple, so basic that restaurants in Calabash have built fortunes around foot high mounds of fried everything on paper plates. But this isn't Calabash and his sesame fried oyster is better-yes, BETTER-than anything I've had in Italy. Or Essex, Massachusetts. A one large bite Great Dish that anyone going there should order. Three dollars.

Heirloom tomato gazpacho was another Great Dish: intensely tomatoey, flavorfully frothy with lumps of Maryland crab meat (specified) and celery sorbet this joyfully lasted and lingered well past the many spoonfuls I refused to share with my wife. She returned the favor with a cream of fresh squash soup that found her dredging bread on the rivulets left in the bowl.

Other first courses included duck confit salad (frisee, Yukon gold potatoes, haricots verts, Banyuls vinegar), Tuna Carpaccio (egg, cornichons, celery, lemon aioli), tempura soft shell crab (melon relish, mustard oil, mint), heirloom tomato salad (Garrotxa cheese, cucumber viniagrette), shrimp and avocado salad (pea greens, ruby red grapefruit, citrus viniagrette) and Addie's mussels (tomato, garlic, shallots, lemon and parsley). Prices ranged from seven to fourteen dollars (Maryland lump crab cake with corn emulsion, Old Bay oil and corn shoots).

Jeff Black has long been known for his outstanding seafood stews. At Black's Bar and Kitchen he has introduced a new one. In fact for the first time he has justly put his name on it: Black's seafood stew. Similar to the Portugeuse seafood stew of Kinkead's this is extremely flavorful with Cerignola olives, preserved lemon, fennel, pearl pasta and smoked paprika aioli. A rich, melded stew, his finest to date.

Sauteed rockfish is served with "Patty pan squash, wild mushrooms, haricots verts, orzo and sauce Soubise." Ahi tuna is is served with black pepper and crusted with fennel atop fennel, cauliflower, olives, artichokes, tomato, sage polenta and lemon oil. Black's herb chicken is plated with sweet potato gratin, morel mushrooms, cipollinis, asparagus and summer truffles.

Seared sea scallops is a third Great Dish: fresh, large sea scallops on top of garlic mashed potatoes, Swiss chard and a thyme-butter sauce which had at least a half dozen crayfish. Superb.

From the wood grill: "Black pearl" organic salmon, Maryland Rockfish, Jamison Farms natural lamb loin, Berkshire pork double chop, spice crusted Moulard duck breast, Cedar River Farms eight ounce filet mignon and Pineland Farms twelve ounce ribeye. For each of these choices for sauce included: a cabernet demi glace, Bearnaise, wild mushroom fondue, citrus-green peppercorn sauce, preserved lemon and olive fond, chimichurri and lemon herb beurre blanc. Mix and match, interesting and unique juxtapositions of flavors and textures.

Sides included outstanding and addictive fried onion strings.

There is also dessert including a creme fraiche ice cream served with cherry sorbet and candied cherries along with a half dozen other choices.

This is a serious restaurant. On its first night which was a "soft opening," home to at least two hundred and fifty covers when only fifty or so were expected. At ten o'clock the ninety seat dining room was still three quarters full, the bar area and flanking tables almost full as was the patio outdoor. I believe it is a fair statement that on its first night of operation-without advertising or promotion-this is already the most popular restaurant in Bethesda.

I have a bias: I raved about Black Salt after two visits in its first two weeks and then found fifty people who trusted my opinion to share a blowout dinner there. The following year Washingtonian voted it D. C.'s best new restaurant and, again, this past week it won the Rammy, again as the best of the new.

Black's Bar and Kitchen is better. Jeff Black will win his first James Beard award for this. It is serious and worth the drive from K street. Or Centreville, Alexandria or Bowie. We are indeed fortunate that he and Barbara have settled here. Not only Montgomery County but all of the D. C. area profits from this level of style and excellence.

Thank you, Jeff.

This is an entirely different restaurant than the one mentioned in the posts which precede this. Literally different. Whatever comments are posted in the beginning of this thread refer to a restaurant that no longer exists. I posted this as a new post-not a continuation of a restaurant that closed six months ago. For whatever reason this was lumped in with the same comments about a now closed restaurant.

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Thanks for the report. Any word on what they have done with the bar ?. It was nice to be able to walk in there and get great oysters, a great burger, or other quality bar food.

There are two bars (one an oyster) AND a community table seating 10. This last feature is particularly interesting since it is enormously successful at Dallas' Stephen Pyles, the restaurant this reminds me of. (The Dallas Morning News has already given the four month old Pyles' the title of Dallas' best restaurant. Black's is on par with it.) Or vice versa. At Pyles' it is a major feature and attraction for 25-40 year old singles as well as couples who cannot get in without a month long wait for a reservation. Black has added a number of tables in the bar area similar in comfort to what you find in the main dining room. (as opposed to the more casual several tables adjacent to the bar at Black Salt)

In a sense this is really six different restaurants: main dining room, main bar, seating near this, oyster bar, communal table and patio. All offer the same menu. Last night at eight o'clock there may have been only a handful of seats in all of them with the bar area crowded and the communal table full. Remember: this was a SOFT OPENING!!!

I expect this restaurant to be not only enormously successful but also to confirm that a major investment like this ($2 million +) can be rewarded in Bethesda, especially for a chef owned restaurant. I believe there will be more on this level with the result that Bethesda will become a dining destination for the D. C. area.

Now, if Black will only open a similar restaurant in Reston where I live!

Edited by Joe H
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JoeH--

Glad to hear it's a much better place. I used to work in Bethesda and I was disappointed in the old Black's. It had replaced the old Gulf Coast Kitchen, which was a funky cool weird joint, that I thought served better food than the Black's version that replaced it. I'll have to try this out sometime soon.

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Great to hear the positive response, Joe H!! Our friends at Black's have really outdone themselves with the new Black's Bar & Kitchen. Slack-jawed is exactly what you'll be when you see the new design!

For all the raves and compliments offered to Jeff, who is no doubt a phenomenal chef, restaurateur and visionary, the menu at Black's Bar & Kitchen was designed by Chef Mallory Buford, most recently of Addie's. Mallory has worked with an outstanding montage of chefs, including Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, Jean Louis Palladin, Sam Mason, Yannick Cam and Bob Kinkead (he and Jeff met when working together at Kinkead's in the early 90's.)

The menu at Black's is Chef Mallory first collaboration and an excellent one at that. He's definitely someone to keep an eye on as a rising star. The boudin blanc Black's Corn Dogs and the Crispy Whole Fish in orange-coriander sauce "had me at hello," as did the Blackberry Strudel w/Sweet Corn Ice Cream by Pastry Chef Janelle Birdsall, who jeff always raves about as "CRAZY-TALENTED!"

Granted, I'm a promoter at heart and by trade, but nonetheless, I'm heartily and personally overwhelmed with excitement for Jeff & Barbara's new venture in Bethesda. James Beard here we come! YEAH!

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Yesterday Mr P got home from work early and said "I have an idea - let's go to Palena!" Then, on our way out the door, he says "I have another idea - let's call and make sure they're open".

They weren't. All dressed up and no place to go... what to do...? Hey, let's go the Black's!

I won't waste bandwidth rehashing what Joe wrote above. But the place is nice, quietly elegant, and totally new. Service was a bit fussy in the way that new places often are - trying hard to get it right, not always succeeding, but you can't fault them for trying. I'm sure once they've settled in service will live up to the food.

The food is fantastic. Many of the dishes have a large array of ingredients - enough to raise my eyebrows, wondering if the chef could make such combinations work - but everything we tried was very well executed.

From the small plates and appetizers we chose savory corn cakes (surprisingly mild, but tasty), cod fritters (perfectly fried, only mildly fishy), the heirloom tomato and garroxta salad (damn good fruits for so early in the season), a goat cheese and beet tart (light and fluffly textured filling, paper-thin pastry), and a single scallop in a pea reduction (perfectly cooked, in a small pool of intensely green, intensely pea-y sauce).

For our main course we shared black pepper and fennel encrusted seared tuna, served over soft polenta with roasted vegetables and olives, and some sort of sauce. Out waitress said the tuna would be medium-rare, but it was cold in the center, not cooked at all, but so what? It tasted fresh and mild and was not overwhelmed by the coating.

For dessert we shared frozen creme fraiche souffle with cherry sorbet and fresh cherries and two different pastry thingies. Very refreshing and not too heavy. The souffle was freezer-burned on the top, though, but the interior tasted fine.

My only quibble - and this is a pet peeve of mine, so YMMV - was that the banquette seats were directly under an industrial chiller. No, not really, but it was f***in' frosty in there. After ten minutes I couldn't stop shivering, so Mr P and I switched seats. On the other side of the table it was easily ten degrees warmer. Fortunately Mr P doesn't mind icy blasts of air, but it irritates me no end. The hvac plan needs work. You can see in the ceiling how the system is arrayed. If you like it cold, ask for a banquette table, and if you don't, ask for the center of the room. Oh, and yes I did bring it to someone's attention, as the various chats always advise ("don't complain later, ask us to do something about it now"), but they didn't do anything. And to be fair I'm not sure that they could without letting the interior get overly hot.

I was happy that my favorite drink from the previous incarnation is still on the menu - the Black's signature martini, with vodka and blackberry and a twist.

At 7 o'clock the bar was hopping, with only a few seats left (and it's a big bar).

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I was checking out Black's menu on its website and I noticed at the bottom that their is a separate section for Sauces like chimchurri, bernaise, etc. (http://www.blacksbarandkitchen.com/menu_dinr.html) which cost an extra $2-5 each.

What is going on - since when does the sauce for a dish cost extra? This seems so strange - most of these sauces does seem like some super specialty item that justify an additional charge.

I haven't eaten there yet, but I was curious if anyone has or if anyone might be able to explain this strange practice, which I hope doesn't catch on at other places which already charge $20+ for an entree.

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I was checking out Black's menu on its website and I noticed at the bottom that their is a separate section for Sauces like chimchurri, bernaise, etc. (http://www.blacksbarandkitchen.com/menu_dinr.html) which cost an extra $2-5 each.

What is going on - since when does the sauce for a dish cost extra? This seems so strange - most of these sauces does seem like some super specialty item that justify an additional charge.

I haven't eaten there yet, but I was curious if anyone has or if anyone might be able to explain this strange practice, which I hope doesn't catch on at other places which already charge $20+ for an entree.

Doesn't Craft in NYC do this too (albeit with much more exotic sounding sauces and accompaniments)?

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I was checking out Black's menu on its website and I noticed at the bottom that their is a separate section for Sauces like chimchurri, bernaise, etc. (http://www.blacksbarandkitchen.com/menu_dinr.html) which cost an extra $2-5 each.

What is going on - since when does the sauce for a dish cost extra? This seems so strange - most of these sauces does seem like some super specialty item that justify an additional charge.

Charlie Palmer also has separate sauce pricing ($2-3). I presume this is to give people some choice in which sauce they get with their steak or other meat/fish that's prepared plain, if they want a sauce at all. Sometimes I prefer getting a meat item a la carte rather than already dressed, as it were.

I'm glad you posted the link. I hadn't looked at the new menu yet. I'm really excited to get back to Black's again and try out the new offerings.

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I presume this is to give people some choice in which sauce they get with their steak or other meat/fish that's prepared plain, if they want a sauce at all. Sometimes I prefer getting a meat item a la carte rather than already dressed, as it were.
Having looked at the menu (thanks for posting the link!), I'm with Pat. I think this is a way of 'dressing' the a la carte, off the grill, options. If you get a composed plate, then I think they would be surprised if you chose a sauce to accompany it. (Of course, I've never been, this is Smokey's theorizing.)
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We had an errand to do in Bethesda today, and stopped by to see if Black's was open for lunch--it was open and not busy, and we had a chance to check out the space, have a bite to eat and chat with John Linck, the CFO of the Black Restaurant Group.

The bar area, where we sat in a comfortable upholstered elevated booth, is sleek, cool and modern with an Asian feel, the walls panelled with pale spalted maple* boards; the neutral colored space is accented by lime green upholstered seats at the bar. I thought it was stylish and attractive.

I had an icy cold Blue Moon draft, served in an elegant chilled glass with a slice of orange. With some ice crystals forming on top of the brew, this really hit the spot on a hot muggy afternoon. Jonathan had a burger--thick, hand-formed flavorful beef, cooked on the wood grill, served with a large helping of fries that were freshly fried in clean oil and generously sprinkled with flakes of Diamond kosher salt. This was very well-priced at $11, I thought. I had a duck rillettes quesadilla, which also had spent some time on the wood grill, served with small pots of mole verde, guacamole and creme fraiche. The shredded duck was moist and flavorful, and the mole verde was thick and tasted of roasted chiles and tomatillos. That was $12.

According to Linck, the place is more crowded on Thursday nights than on the weekends--does everyone in Bethesda go out to Rehoboth on Friday after work? We definitely plan to return for dinner soon.

*spalted maple has a variegated grey figure in it, resulting from a fungus. Jonathan used to be a cabinet and furniture maker, so he knows all about these sorts of things.

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According to Linck, the place is more crowded on Thursday nights than on the weekends--does everyone in Bethesda go out to Rehoboth on Friday after work?

I've definitely noticed that after a number of years living in Mont Co. Summer weekends it's actually pretty easy to get a table in Bethesda, but weekdays are more crowded than usual.

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Have you seen the wine list at the newly renovated Black's in Bethesda? You may want to moderate the above statement after you see it.
I had not, but I will admit that it is comparable in length. Given the number of "reputation" labels on Black's list, I'd be interested to see their prices. The prices, alas, are not available on the web site.
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I had not, but I will admit that it is comparable in length. Given the number of "reputation" labels on Black's list, I'd be interested to see their prices. The prices, alas, are not available on the web site.

I haven't seen the new Ray's list but Black's now has one of the best in the D. C. area considering selection (Emilio Moro is an excellent and fairly priced Spanish wine that I was shocked to find in Montgomery County) price (remarkably fair in most bottles that I know), crystal (Schott Zweigle (sp?) 24 ounce glasses), serving temperature and a floor to ceiling wine display that must equal any within a couple of hundred miles from here. This is what I wrote when they first opened?

"This could not be Montgomery County.

Two hundred and sixty labels on the wine list with twenty two bottles by the glass. From Emilio Moro to Caymus Special Select to Marquis Phillips-and with very fair prices. Not only Montgomery County's best list but one of the best and most thoughtful in the D. C. area. A shock to find this type of intelligence and pricing north of Western avenue."

For the new Ray's to even be equal to this in Montgomery County-from any perspective-would be a real and expensive effort. Also, if you like Muga (I assume you had the Reserve at Ray's) you will love Emilio Moro which is priced about the same at most stores. Emilio Moro, for me, is a superior wine. I should note that it is possible that Black's has Muga and Ray's has Emilio Moro. Still, please give it a try when you can.

Edited by Joe H
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One of the fish specials last night was a wonderful grilled sockeye(?) salmon that I had with a preseved lemon and olive sauce. Very delicious!

My wife was disappointed by the size of the soft shell crab (one, from the appetizers), but I contend that it's pretty much out of season so I wonder why it is still on the regular menu. Better in June, I am sure. At $14, we do better at home, though it was delicious, she said.

The gazpacho with crab was delicious!

I wasn't sure what the sweet potato gratin was supposed to be. It looked like Irish potatoes formed in a cake with a few shaves of sweet potato on top. Not sure what I expected but that wasn't it. I think I will try another side from the a la carte menu next time.

This was our first time to the Bethesda location. Recognized some wait staff from Addies and the Bistro in Garret Park.

You know, they called me today for a "follow up" survey of my experience! That surprised me. And NO, I never mentioned DRocks!

We'll have to be more adventurous with our wine selection next time. Keep up with the recommendations.

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Have you seen the wine list at the newly renovated Black's in Bethesda? You may want to moderate the above statement after you see it.

Ok, so 2 whole places in the entire county have potentially great wine lists. Does it really make a difference which one is the best? Hopefully this is the start of things to come for the folks in MC.

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Ok, so 2 whole places in the entire county have potentially great wine lists. Does it really make a difference which one is the best? Hopefully this is the start of things to come for the folks in MC.
That's exactly right. I'm not going to hold my breath about more places jumping on the bandwagon though.
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Summer weekends it's actually pretty easy to get a table in Bethesda....

Until now. I counted sixty people in the bar area tonight before I could count no further. This place was packed and bustling.

The gazpacho with crab was delicious!

I've developed a pretty reliable ability to take a lap through a restaurant, glance at the plates, and tell in about 1/10th of a second whether they're any good. Tonight I walked through an absolutely overrun Black's and was amazed at what I was seeing. Then I settled back in my seat, and ordered the gazpacho and the whole fish (tonight a Bronzino) which both surpassed expectations given that this kitchen was cranking in overdrive. Service was remarkably friendly and efficient (this is the sign of a great restaurateur), and the wine list was extensive and fairly priced, especially considering this restaurant is in Montgomery County. Order a bottle of Selbach Riesling (on the list as "Dry Fish") for $27 to get a glimpse of the great 2005 vintage, and to see a welcome option in Terry Theise's portfolio: Rieslings that are fermented to be less sweet and with more alcohol.

Is this place going to be any good six months from now? I have no idea, but for now, there are two V-E-R-Y interesting restaurants that just opened in Montgomery County.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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In addition to the bar I would give serious consideration to the ten seat communal table. I've developed a real fondness for these rare type of arrangements in my business travel. For a single person it presents an outstanding opportunity to share a dining experience with others. At any given time half of the seats may be taken by other singles along with a mixture of a couple or threesome. I suspect that more restaurants in the D. C. area will be opening tables like this in the future. Black's is one of the most successful and popular ones that I have seen anywhere.

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Summer weekends it's actually pretty easy to get a table in Bethesda....

Until now. I counted sixty people in the bar area tonight before I could count no further. This place was packed and bustling.

Yeah, I should have qualified my statement - even during Bethesda Restaurant Week, it was pretty easy to get a table almost anywhere, EXCEPT for Black's.

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I have now eaten approximately 2/3 of the menu at Black's and have developed some definite opinions. The single best entree is the rockfish. The best first courses include the scallop (yes, it's singular) and sesame fried oyster. The goat cheese tart is really interesting. A wild salmon special was delicious. Sweet corn ice cream (remarkably delicious-cannot believe that I have never tasted this before anywhere) is the best ice cream. All of the soups and stew are excellent; especially the best gumbo (seafood and sausage) in the D. C. area and the unique gazpacho with a small scoop of celery sorbet in the center of the bowl and lump sweet Maryland crab topping it. Addie's mussels, for whatever reason, taste better at Black's then they do at Addie's! If someone is going for the first time I would suggest ordering: scallop or sesame fried oyster for a first plate, the soup of the day for the second (gazpacho is excellent but several daily soup specials have been better, i.e. cream of pumpkin) and the rockfish for the entree. Sweet corn ice cream is definitely worth a look for dessert.

Edited by Joe H
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The best first courses include the scallop (yes, it's singular) and sesame fried oyster.

Interestingly, the sesame fried oyster was the only dissapointment in my meal last Friday night (aside from the LOUD table next to us of two sugically enhanced couples who couldn't stop talking about everyone's botox and boob jobs - at one point I thought the most buxom was actually going to pull out her nipple and show her lack of scar tissue) - a little dry and burned tasting (the oyster, not the nipple). A surprise given the etherial, lightly breaded oysters they serve at Blacksalt.

Other than that, though jenrus and I were impressed all around. First by the beautiful space - I had never been inside the old Black's, but from the outside it seemed very dark and dank. Now it is an airy, but quite bustling scene. I especially liked the shimmer of ligth refelcting off the water of the little pond on the patio.

Joe is right about the soups and the salmon and the corn ice cream (I'm trying to figure out how to make this one, but no way could I come close). We each had a different take on tomato soup - I had the gazpacho and jen had the cream of golden tomato and I'm not sure which was more luscious, especially with the smooth celery sorbet in the gazpacho. I was especially happy with my entree of roasted cod served over a stew of chorizo and chickpeas.

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Interestingly, the sesame fried oyster was the only dissapointment in my meal last Friday night (aside from the LOUD table next to us of two sugically enhanced couples who couldn't stop talking about everyone's botox and boob jobs - at one point I thought the most buxom was actually going to pull out her nipple and show her lack of scar tissue) - a little dry and burned tasting (the oyster, not the nipple).
Bill, thank you for one of the funniest things I've read all month. It must have sounded like a bad movie. :)

On topic, I think we will be giving Black's a try. Is it the type of place I could bring the kids to for an early meal?

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All of Jeff and Barbara Black's places are welcoming to children--they have two young ones of their own, and are very understanding about them.
Thanks Zora. Our kids love seafood, and we usually split an adult entree for them since "kid's menus" almost never feature fish, shrimp, or scallops. We'll check it out on Friday...can't wait to check out the wine list. :)
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