100 Best Restaurants 2008: Black’s Bar and Kitchen

No. 64: Black's Bar and Kitchen

Cuisine: This flagship of the Black’s restaurant group (Addie’s, Black Market Bistro, and BlackSalt) tries to be a little of everything, with a raw bar for oyster lovers, a tapas menu for grazers, and some wood-grilled steakhouse fare with mix-and-match sides and sauces.

Mood: The restaurant bustles with regulars. The sleek dining room evokes Japan with its low banquettes and clean lines, while the bar, with its elevated booths and stools that leave diners’ feet dangling, summons Alice’s Wonderland.

Best for: Business lunchers, oyster fiends, wine lovers.

Best dishes: Oysters from the raw bar or fried with a sesame coating; seafood stew, a modernized cioppino with olives, preserved lemon, and fennel; sautéed shrimp with wild-mushroom risotto; succulent twice-cooked chicken; pomegranate-pine-nut tart with lemon confit; spiced Peruvian hot chocolate with alfajores; caramelized bananas with tres leches cake and dulce de leche.

Insider tips: Resist the allure of the grill—the kitchen is prone to leaving meats and fishes on too long, resulting in a bitter char. Build a meal instead around the “composed dishes,” small plates with big, Cali-Med flavors. They go down even better with one of the excellent California wines. A pretheater menu—three courses for $35 between 5:30 and 6:30 pm —could be Bethesda’s best bargain.

Service: ••

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 Petworth.