100 Best Restaurants 2009: BlackSalt

No. 75: BlackSalt

Cuisine: Jeff and Barbara Black’s seafood-focused restaurant takes a lot of its cues from the fish market out front, where the day’s catches chill atop mounds of ice. If those Nantucket bay scallops look good, odds are they’ll be dolled up on the menu. Will they be fried New England style? Sautéed with pancetta and gnocchi? Slipped into ceviche? With this freewheeling kitchen, anything’s possible.

Mood: Cross a neighborhood bistro with an of-the-moment, ambitious restaurant and you get something like this Palisades destination. Few restaurants serve so many purposes: You can swing by the market to pick up some Old Bay–infused butter or drop $85 on a sevencourse menu in the handsome back dining room. In between is a steel bar with a few walk-in tables and a small leather-and-frosted-glass dining room, both often crowded and loud.

Best for: Seafood lovers—there was only one nonpiscine entrée on the menu when we last checked; little-seen delicacies such as rockfish collar and butterfish are a point of pride for the kitchen.

Best dishes: Salmon tartare atop a crisp rice cake; bigeye tuna tartare over soy-slicked rice; Royal Red shrimp in rémoulade (in season); tangy clam chowder boasting both littleneck and fried clams; fried whole-belly clams with curried aïoli; Casco Bay mussels steamed in Belgian ale and lemon; butterscotch pot de crème with a single-malt-Scotch milkshake; coconut cream pie with brûléed bananas.

Insider tips: Watch out for dishes that sound as if there’s too much going on; there probably is. The Southern-accented Sunday brunch is a relatively inexpensive treat.

Service: ••

Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurant 

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.