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BlackSalt Restaurant and Fishmarket


zoramargolis
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BlackSalt Restaurant and Fish Market, Jeff Black's newest venture will open for dinner tomorrow, at 4883 MacArthur Blvd., next door to Addie Bassin's MacArthur Beverages. The phone # is 202-342-9101. Anyone who remembers the late, lamented MacArthur Pharmacy will be amazed at the total transformation of the space. The fish market faces the street, then there is a bar area (full bar and raw bar) and then the dining room and open kitchen, which has a woodgrill and a smoker.

The fish market will be opening on Wednesday. Lunch will be added next week.

(Full disclosure: I will be working in the fish market.)

The menu is quite ambitious, with a selection of small plates, appetizers, several seafood stews, five or six different preparations of mussels, specials and entrees-- almost all will be fish and shellfish. Last week, during a staff training session, Jeff Black explained that because he has four restaurants, the fish and shellfish sold in the fishmarket and served in the restaurant will always be very fresh. Within three or four days, everything will be sold or served, if not at BlackSalt, then at Addie's, Black's Bar and Grill or Black Market, his other places. Jeff is very serious about quality --everything is made from scratch, including stock and fumet, and he insists on top quality ingredients. And he has very demanding expectations of the staff in the interest of customer satisfaction.

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Zoramargolis -- Are you working Friday night or Saturday AM? I'll be hunting for something ludicrously fresh for Saturday night dinner, and would love to chat up someone with the inside dope.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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They're going to sell dope, too? Better and better. But then it should be called BlackTar, surely?

(This post will self-destruct in 3, 2, 1. And don't call me Shirley.)

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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Given that Jeff Black once worked at Kinkead's (chef de cuisine?)and the success of many of his dishes in his Bethesda restaurant this is an opening to be sincerely anticipated. Addie's, his first restaurant on the Pike, has long been one of Montgomery County's best restaurants. His "Vermillion Bay Seafood Stew" at Black's is a contender for DC's best seafood stew in league with Eve's bouillibasse. In short this is a restaurant to be taken quite seriously, easily a destination as well as a local restaurant.

Zora, I wish you the best and look forward to visiting you there soon. I suspect many on this board are going to be quite surprised at the level of his excellence and the impact this should have on the DC scene.

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I'm looking forward to visiting the fish market.

Addie's consistently has excellent fish, and some inventive cooking. It is the only bright spot in a sea of mediocre Rockville restaurants with aspirations to be something more than suburban chain hell.

Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Sure, but will there be miniburgers? :smile:

(More seriously, any thoughts of allowing corkage from Bassins next door? That would rule.)

Jeff told me that he will have corkage, but hasn't decided on the fee yet. All of his other places are in Montgomery County. which doesn't allow corkage.

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Will you be selling some of the harder to find fish?  I would be willing to drive from Arlington if I could find something different from what all of the other fish mongers sell.

The Fish Market opened late this afternoon. In these first days, the market will be featuring only fish that are on the restaurant menu. Once we have our feet under us, we will expand the offerings. As of today, there was turbot, Atlantic farmed salmon that were raised on organic feed, Nantucket Bay scallops, diver and day boat scallops from Maine, monkfish, baby octopus, oysters from Martha's Vinyard, crabcakes made with Chesapeake Bay lump crabmeat, and Prince Edward Island mussels.

Some are being sourced locally, but a lot of the products are being airfreighted in from Boston, Maine and Washington State. Everything that was in the case today arrived yesterday or this morning. Fresh stuff will be coming in every day.

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Sure, but will there be miniburgers? :smile:

(More seriously, any thoughts of allowing corkage from Bassins next door? That would rule.)

Jeff told me that he will have corkage, but hasn't decided on the fee yet. All of his other places are in Montgomery County. which doesn't allow corkage.

Corkage is $15, and customers can drop off their wine in advance, so that it can be served at the proper temperature.

Edited by zoramargolis (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Ten of us descended on Jeff Black's new restaurant on MacArthur Blvd. near Reservoir today for lunch. What follows is not intended as a review, only to note very real potential and the need for a return visit or two to confirm this. In general the restaurant that this most reminds me of is Seattle's Flying Fish which won a regional Beard award for its chef. My wife and I will return with another couple next week; after this I will post a full report on here.

Today, remarkably, the restaurant was full at 1:00 without an empty seat. Over forty people crowded the two dining rooms on only their third luncheon since opening, on a day when Jeff Black went home early ill! In fact at 2:30 there were still twenty people having lunch.

First courses for lunch range from $5 to 8 with main courses clustered around $12 to 14. Rich, intensely flavored cream of squash was the only soup offered while for dinner four different stews including the Spanish Zarzuela, Bourride and an interesting in house creation noted, "Nagasaki."

Black Salt has exemplery fried seafood, in fact it would be accurate to describe their fried calamari with Ponzu sauce as "frying as art." The description is apt since there is absolutely no grease. In Italy there are several restaurants that are so proud of their fritto misto they present it on thin cardboard to show the absence of any oil stain. Al Porto in Milan is one, Al Como in Venice is another. Black Salt's fried calamari would hold up to both, it is THAT good.

Mussels, along with the calamari passed amongst us, were also exemplery as was a very interesting red cabbage, vinegary slaw unusual for this area.

One of us raved about an oyster po'boy pronouncing it on par with a warm memory from NOLA. Another enjoyed their crab cake although some inconsistency was noted with this. A second crab cake didn't have nearly as much lump crab meat as the first. When told about this we were comped an additional lump crab cake to take with us. I should also note that in the market in front of the restaurant "sweet" lump crab meat from Crisfield is sold; in Crisfield, two months ago, I could not find local crabmeat returning with Carolina crabmeat similar to what is sold on Maine Avenue.

This last point, I think is especially important: Jeff Black is sourcing the absolute best raw seafood he can find. What is served in the restaurant is sold in the market in front, much of this for more than reasonable prices. Black, by the way, years ago apprenticed at Kinkead's, a restaurant that many will feel this reminds them of.

Salmon and cod were also part of our lunch but not shared by all of us.

Dinner at Black Salt includes: "wood grilled sardines," "braised baby octopus with red chili, garlic, tomato, olive oil," "Serrano ham wrapped white shrimp," five styles of mussels (Thai, Moroccan, Spanish, Vietnamese and "Addie's (shallot, garlic, tomato, lemon) ), interesting first courses including rockfish sashimi, clam and Chincoteaque oyster stew, rockfish cheek with foie gras, numerous diffeent oysters both locally and nationally sourced. Main courses include "proscuitto wrapped Monkfish," "wood grilled Bison Hanger steak" and pan seared diver scallops with crawfish butter. Most entrees are $19-25, stews 19-22, appetizers/first courses 6-12. A seven course tasting menu is offered for $84.

There were some glitches with service-BUT they were overrun with over 40 people on the third day of lunch when I am certain that they expected a third of this amount.

There is very real hope with this restaurant. I believe it is more ambitious than either Addie's or Black's in Bethesda. My analogy with Seattle's Flying Fish I believe to be a fair one considering the style, ambience and capability of the chef.

My expectation for our next visit, frankly, is similar to my next visit to CityZen.

Despite some understandable glitches Black Salt will be its competition for DC's best new restaurant over the next months.

Edited by Joe H (log)
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Wow, Mr. H. Great post! You have me sold on getting on over there. :smile:

I look forward to many similarly concise and enjoyable posts in the future.

Let's go folks. How bout an eGullet in late Jan when they have things a little better nailed down? And yes, to answer the question that is sure to surface, I'll volunteer my organizational services.

Yes? No? Thoughts?

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I would like to add a comment or two to Joe's post. As the diner in question who had the oyster po'boy (and I don't recall anyone else having had it) I did not say it reminded me of NOLA. What I said was that it was nearly worth the wait, referring to the unreasonably long wait we had to endure to be served. We arrived at the restaurant at 12, and while we did not place our order immediately, we were still waiting for our main courses to arrive at 1:30. This is probably why so many tables were still occupied at 2:30...

It is worth giving this restaurant a second try, however, since the food was very good, and the prices I thought were reasonable, other than for the oysters, where "premium" oysters were $2.50 a piece (!).

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I talked with Jeff back in the Spring when he was getting everything together for Black Salt. He came out to Middleburg to check out some things and meet with his Kitchen designrer, who had worked on my previous kitchen. He was so upbeat about what they were goping to create, a real believer. I believe he worked on the opening of Pesce and Black salt will probably deliver on its promise. Always great to see a worthy place open up thats not in the Penn Quarter. This may be the source a lot of non industry people have been looking for for their fresh seafood, without having to resort to the overhyped and over priced Whole Foods fiasco.

If he is thin, I will probably dine poorly. If he is both thin and sad, the only hope is in flight.”

Fernand Point

Cirrcle Bistro, Potato Peeler

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Wow, Mr. H. Great post! You have me sold on getting on over there.  :smile:

I look forward to many similarly concise and enjoyable posts in the future.

Let's go folks. How bout an eGullet in late Jan when they have things a little better nailed down? And yes, to answer the question that is sure to surface, I'll volunteer my organizational services.

Yes? No? Thoughts?

Sounds good to me!

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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Wow, Mr. H. Great post! You have me sold on getting on over there.  :smile:

I look forward to many similarly concise and enjoyable posts in the future.

Let's go folks. How bout an eGullet in late Jan when they have things a little better nailed down? And yes, to answer the question that is sure to surface, I'll volunteer my organizational services.

Yes? No? Thoughts?

Sounds good to me!

I'd be down with that.

Bill Russell

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Joe,

I want my Crab cake! But I guess that is what I get for leaving early.

The crab cake that I had was mostly filler, and was relatively absent of flavor. I think that I found two pieces of lump crab in the entire cake. I have to second Joe's comments about the apps, the calamari was perfect, and I loved the Ponzu dipping sauce, but it tasted like Kikkoman Ponzu with a few sliced scallions. That is really not as much a complaint as an observation, I personally love the stuff. The mussels were on the small and firm, and tasted impeccably fresh. They were a real treat.

I noticed yesterday that they had live bay scallops still in the shell available in the retail case. I have not seen these anywhere else around here. The other fish in the case looked quite interesting.

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I noticed yesterday that they had live bay scallops still in the shell available in the retail case.  I have not seen these anywhere else around here.  The other fish in the case looked quite interesting.

We picked up some bay scallops a few days ago (not in the shell however). Absolutely delicious and fresh. Seared them up in a pan with S&P. :wub:

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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Ms. Alex and I will be visiting our cousins in DC over New Year's; the four of us have planned an eagerly anticipated dinner at Black Salt on Jan. 1 (7 p.m. rez, if any other eG'ers are there and would like to say hi). We're also picking up a market order the previous day -- Scott the manager was extremely helpful and accommodating, even over the phone from 800 miles away.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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  • 2 weeks later...

A week ago I posted on here about a lunch that ten of us had at Black Salt on its third day of operation. Tonight my wife and I returned with another couple to do our best to work our way through its menu. From foie gras to whole bellied Ipswitch clams to an extraordinary shrimp bisque with incredible depth, continuing through several exemplery presentations of mussels (preserved lemon! whoa!!!), into entrees featuring filet mignon of tuna, diver scallops lightly charred and an extraordinary South Ameican stew, even into dessert with a tiramisu that I didn't need to apologize for ordering (best I have eveer had=ANYWHERE!), chocolate peanut butter crunch cake worthy of a Beard nomination and into Key Lime mousse-this, right now, is the best new restaurant in D. C.

Based on tonight's dinner, a lunch for ten and three extraordinary cakes and pies sampled for Christmas I would give this a serious chance of joining Maestro, Laboratorio and Citronelle with four stars.

It is THAT good.

What you don't want to know is that many others know this also. Three week wait for Friday and Saturday and it's going to get longer!

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My husband and I had lunch today at Blacksalt, and loved everything we ordered. The shrimp bisque, as Joe H mentioned, was exceptional. It is garnished with a bit of parsley oil and little housemade vegetable chips, which sounds odd but works.

The oyster po-boy with chipotle remoulade was served with red cabbage and tomato on a perfect roll. The oysters were incredibly fresh and crisp and not a bit greasy. I don't claim to know enough about po-boys to say if this is 'authentic'. I do know it was delicious. :rolleyes:

My husband had the Thai Style Grilled Squid Salad, with watercress, sweet chile vinaigrette, mint and scallions. Great combination of flavors, and the squid was some of the best we've had in a long time.

Last week, we picked up several items at the seafood market to cook at home. The diver scallops were fresh and sweet, the crabcake full of lump crabmeat with a small amount of breadcrumbs to hold it together and the cod, which they special ordered for us, was wonderful. Today, we picked up fresh shrimp and fresh Nantucket bay scallops for New Year's Day dinner. We are thrilled to finally have a source for excellent seafood in this area. :wub:

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The place looks awesome. I look forward to eating there soon. Picked up some diver scallops, monkfish, and halibut to cook up this evening. Can't wait to get started cooking it all up.

Happy New Year folks!

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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My wife and I ate at BlackSalt last Friday night and did the tasting menu: 7 courses with wines to match.

I can't begin to describe it all, but I can tell you this -- this was the best overall dining experience I have had in Washington in the last two years. I won't lie and say that the cooking matches Citronelle or Maestro, but it is not intended to do so. What it does, is deliver handsomely on impeccably fresh fish, handled with care, served with aplomb by an energetic wait staff. Each dish was accompanied by thoughtfully picked wines, priced incredibly fairly.

The place is bustling and fun, and the food is top notch. Everyone working there seems totally enthusiastic about the concept and the product. We left the restaurant with a warm glow -- and that wasn't just the wine talking (although I did feel it the next morning).

There are too few restaurants like this in D.C.! Go now. Right away.

Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

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I am glad that you really liked Black Salt. It is a sincere effort from Jeff Black that speaks well for our city. I like it enough that in the past I've organized dinners at Laboratorio and Maestro. The spring "blow out" will be at Black Salt. By the way his signature "stew" is his Portuguese seafood stew. This past weekend I made Kinkead's version of it which incorporates orange pulp and juice, red wine vinegar and red wine, white wine, fish fumet (made with fish heads & frame), leeks, fennel, cumin seed, fresh basil, anchovies, salt pork and an array of other flavors that no one would believe could ever meld together. It was delicious! Jeff Black's is suppose to better. This is the link for Kinkead's version.

http://starchefs.com/chefs/BKinkead/html/recipe_05.shtml

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