100 Best Restaurants 2008: BlackSalt

No. 56: BlackSalt

Cuisine: Chef/owner Jeff Black’s most ambitious restaurant showcases seafood in all its guises, from dead-on renditions of fry-basket classics and gutsy stews to ambitious fusion dishes encompassing a range of global influences.

Mood: The front of the restaurant is given over to a well-stocked fish market. Farther back, the stainless-steel raw bar teems with Georgetown and Palisades drop-ins. Beyond that is the bustling, softly lit dining room.

Best for: Couples and foursomes on the hunt for pristine seafood and a party that never seems to end.

Best dishes: Well-sourced oysters on the half shell; New England clam chowder brimming with clams and cockles; fried Ipswich clams with garlicky romesco sauce; deconstructed seafood stews such as Portuguese cataplana with dorade, pork, and olives, and Peruvian parazuela with sea bass, shrimp, and coconut; Rhode Island fluke with Banyuls-hazelnut brown butter; butterscotch pot de crème with a scotched milkshake; banana-coconut cream pie with thyme-honey roasted pineapple—the essence of the Caribbean in a single slice.

Insider tips: Weekday lunches and the Sunday jazz brunch are easier reservations to come by than dinner—and just as rewarding. In the James Bondy new tasting room—complete with sliding doors—a fixed-price, five-course menu includes such high points as a kushi oyster with caviar and crisped diver scallops and sweetbreads.

Service: ••½

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.