January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 61: Black Salt

The real value of this sleek and hugely successful fish emporium? It’s many things to many people. Start with the fish market, where pristine if pricey seafood glistens on ice (and where, if you ask, they’ll even clean those white South Carolina shrimp for you). Or head to the convivial raw bar for a plate of boutique oysters, a bowl of steamy clam chowder brimming with tender clams and cockles, and a Champagne cocktail. Or go for the full monty—a meal built around seafood in the stylish dining room, where a loyal Palisades and Georgetown following nods its approval.

A dinner might be as simple as a plate of fried Ipswich clams with romesco for dipping or Prince Edward Island mussels steeped with Dijon cream and fines herbes. More elaborate is a fragrant Provençal seafood stew perfumed with saffron and spinach, or whole branzino with organic dandelion greens, sunchokes, and preserved-lemon salsa verde.

Carnivores are pretty much out of luck; hanger steak with heavenly Roquefort dauphine potatoes was the lone meat dish on a recent night’s menu. And the kitchen indulges a need to experiment a mite too often. Gulf shrimp wrapped in Serrano ham don’t do much for either the ham or shrimp, while a reduction of cherry and soy that moistens a Pacific butterfish is notable mostly for its warring flavors. Rule of thumb: At a restaurant that sometimes seem to be spinning in every direction, the simpler the better.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.