Last Friday, on my way home from work, I stopped at a well-known wine store on MacArthur Ave. to stock up for my usual weekend drinking binge. When I left the store (with three bottles of wine in hand), I looked around Palisades, thinking to myself what a nice little neighborhood it is. As I was looking around, I noticed right there, a mere two stores down from the wine store, was BlackSalt.
Holy shit! I didn't know BlackSalt was that close to me! I did need to find a good seafood restaurant to go to and from what I've heard about BlackSalt, it could be that place.
So guess where I was last weekend...
We decided to go on a Sunday. The only reservation that was available was at 5 PM, which was pretty early, but since we were going to have Noah with us, I figured it was for the best. To be safe, I called ahead to check that it was okay that we brought him with us.
"Hello, we've never been to BlackSalt before. Is it the kind of place that's too nice to bring a baby to?"
The hostess on the other end of the line replied with, "Oh no! People bring babies here all the time. You'll be fine!"
Sounds like my kind of place. If this were true, then I might be going here quite often. There's plenty of parking so no need for a cab, and Noah is welcome so no need for a babysitter. SCORE!
We arrived at BlackSalt about five minutes before 5 PM. The place was pretty empty. I found out that there is a section up front called "the café" that doesn't take reservations and you can just walk in. The problem is, shortly after 5, the people started coming in droves. This place must be everyone's Sunday night habit.
As you'd expect with being the first table, we were seated almost immediately. Our waiter came over and greeted us and explained the menu to us. I was impressed with how many specials BlackSalt had -- two or three options on the specials menu alone for each course. BlackSalt can be the perfect neighborhood restaurant because you can return over and over and the menu would always have plenty of new options.
There is also a wide selection of oysters and mussels which vary in cost, depending by how hard it is for them to get them. We skipped the small plates section of the menu although I really wanted to order the braised baby octopus.
The six Kumamoto oysters we ordered were $2.50 each -- these were for Amy. She's the one who has the real love for oysters although I have to say that these oysters (which were pretty big for the Kumamoto variety) were probably some of the best I've ever tasted - buttery, briny, and tender. What more can you ask for in an oyster?
I also had the special soup, which was a Portuguese (or Manhattan) Clam Chowder, except this was Portuguese Clam Chowder on steroids. The broth was a chunky red sauce with root vegetables, and plenty spicy thanks to the merguez sausage. Then as an added bonus, the chef puts a few fried clams on top.
Our dinner got even better when our entrees came out, although they did take a while to come. Our waiter apologized several times for the wait and offered us more bread (which I have to say is great by the way), but Amy and I didn't mind. Noah was sound asleep and we were having some good conversations over our wine, a very nice Pinot Noir.
I was happy with the artful presentation of the entrees, which I'm not really used to seeing at seafood restaurants. Amy's Maryland rockfish was really incredible; the rockfish was perfectly cooked with a cauliflower puree and brussel sprouts and other wintery vegetables which gave the dish a real down-home feel. My mahi mahi was also cooked perfectly, but I didn't like mine nearly as much as Amy's. The sauce it came with really overpowered the mild flavor of the dish, but I still managed to eat all of it.
Dessert was a complete surprise. We both ordered our own, which I think is still a bad habit from when Amy was pregnant and wouldn't share anything with me. My bread pudding was quite possibly the best bread pudding I've ever had! It was just the way I like it, firm in texture (not mushy like wet bread that's been sitting in a pool of water) and full of cinnamon and caramel flavor. I devoured it, which I was sad to do because it was a work of art. I'd go back for the bread pudding alone.
Amy is a crème brulee fiend. I don't think she can keep herself from ordering it when it's on the menu, and at BlackSalt, she made no exception. Their crème brulee three-ways was very enjoyable for her to eat and came in three different dishes with three different flavors.
Our check was nothing to shrug off. The final bill was over $200 with tip, but I imagine you could get out of there for cheaper than that if you ordered glasses of wine instead of a bottle at $45 and didn't order quite as much food as we did. With entrees in the range of the mid-$20s to the high $30s, appetizers in the range of $10 to $15 and $10 desserts, it'll be hard to get out of Blacksalt without a serious dent in your wallet, but it'll probably be worth it. There's way too much good food on BlackSalt's menu to get out of there for less than $100. But for those of you with kids, you can subtract a cab ride and babysitter fees which can easily add $80 to your night.
Oh, and I think I found my seafood restaurant.
4883 MacArthur Blvd., NW
Lunch: Tuesday - Sunday 11:30 - 2:00
Dinner: Tuesday - Thursday 5:30 - 9:30, Friday 5:30 - 9:30, Saturday 5:00 - 11:00, Sunday 5:00 - 9:00
Dress Code: Business Casual (I saw people in jeans though)
Parking: Plenty of street parking
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro: none
Reservations: Call or use opentable.com
Baby-Friendly Rating: 3 out of 4 diapers. We weren't the only ones there with a baby. In fact, there were two other families there with newborns.