The Palisades neighborhood of DC, home of BlackSalt, feels more like a yuppie suburb than a part of the district. Indeed, BlackSalt is not just a restaurant; the building also serves as a fish market, giving the establishment a casual, local feel. A market display of fish is prominently located just through the entrance, and so when I walked into BlackSalt, I immediately checked out the potential ingredients of my future meal. The soft shell crabs were the first to catch my eye, as they were the first I had seen of the season. I also noticed that the scallops looked particularly fresh, and so the fish market display certainly influenced the way I would later order at the restaurant.
Complementing BlackSalt’s location, the restaurant’s crowd is not as trendy as many other seafood restaurants in the city, such as Georgetown’s Hook. But the atmosphere is certainly chic and the service is young and friendly. The enthusiastic sommelier helped us choose a great wine: EIEIO and Company’s 2006 Chardonnay from Willamette Valley, Oregon—a choice I would never make on my own.
We started with wood grilled Mediterranean sardines with olive persillade and lemon. While these were good, they paled in comparison to the soft shell crabs we ordered off the menu. The preparation on the menu was in a smoked bacon-malt gastrique, and so we specially ordered them simply prepared with flour and lightly pan sautéed. This is my favorite preparation of soft shell crab because it allows their flavor and texture to really shine—unlike oft-seen deep fried and tempura styles. In fact, we could not get enough of these crabs and promptly ordered another plate.
While my instinct with the soft shell crabs proved to be spot-on, I was slightly disappointed with the scallop dish. Although it was on the appetizer menu, I did not anticipate the miniscule size of the dish: Seared day boat scallop (singular) with morel mushrooms and capers in a brown butter sauce with a pine nut, parmesan, and spinach-filled raviolio (also singular). While it had good flavor and the scallop was very good, the dish provided only about 3 bites. I could not help but feel a little ripped off.
We also tried “Addie’s Mussels,” blue shell, rope-cultured mussels from Prince Edward Island in a shallot, garlic, tomato, and lemon sauce, which were delicious. Finally, we had the Rhode Island skate wing, which also looked particularly fresh in the market’s display. The skate was prepared in charred ramp-balsamic vinaigrette, which provided a very strong balsamic flavor. This was also served with a sweet potato confit, which complemented the dish well in an overall successful entrée. We skipped dessert after our multiple courses of soft shell crab and other seafood as the rest of the crowd went home to relieve their babysitters.
BlackSalt is a great place to go for fresh seafood prepared well. The dishes are not incredibly creative, just as the establishment is not especially exciting, but the ingredients are fresh and tasty. Just do not count on hailing a cab in the Palisades—call at least 15 minutes before the meal ends to ensure a ride back to civilization.
4883 MacArthur Blvd, NW
Washington, DC 20007