Sunday, November 16, 2008

Late dinner at BlackSalt

After the movies on Saturday night, all of the restaurants in Bethesda were jammed -- all of the decent ones, anyhow. So after making a few calls, we decided to head over to BlackSalt, one of our old favorites, where we were fairly confident of getting a seat at the bar. (Truth be told, we did stop in at Et Voila on the way, but they were packed as well).

We popped in to BlackSalt and were lucky to score a couple of seats -- 15 minutes later the place was packed with people standing and waiting for bar seats. BlackSalt (BS) has been one of our favorites for years but our visits there have dropped off dramatically during the past year. To be honest, Michael was quite unwell after a dinner there involving mussels. While it is impossible, and maybe quite unfair, to make a link directly, it was a bit discouraging. Our last visit, about two months ago, was strictly for dessert (their chocolate peanut butter pie is superb).

Anyhow, we settled ourselves in, exchanged greetings with the friendly and efficient barmaids, and (since it was after 9:00 and we were hungry) got right down to business. First order of business was a half bottle of Adelsheim Pinot Gris, always reliable and attractively priced at $18 (cheaper than 2 glasses). BS has a very extensive wine list and there are certainly some bargains there if you know where to look.

We started with 3 appetizers between the two of us: grilled artichokes, frisee salad, and fried clams. The artichokes, which I picked for the novelty factor, were unusual and very tasty -- a small artichoke halved and pan-grilled with a nice vinaigrette accompaniment. The frisee salad was very pleasant as well. I love the clams there which come with a very intensely curry flavored mayonnaise that I liked more than Michael. In my view the clams are one of the best things on the menu.

For main courses, Michael had the skate wing -- a first for him and again I was proud of him for stepping outside his comfort zone. The skate was excellent, nicely crisped on the outside and just cooked on the inside. Of course skate doesn't have a huge amount of flavor on its own but the accompanying roasted mushrooms and broccoli were a very nice complement. I had the arctic char which originally arrived from the kitchen seriously undercooked...basically raw except for the outer half inch. I like my tuna crudo and I also like sushi but this was a bit too much of a good thing, so it was sent back for a little extra time. A nice touch was that the kitchen sent out a little butternut squash soup in an amuse size to keep me occupied while waiting for the fish to reappear, which it soon did. It had a marvelous vinegary sauce with braised vegetables which Michael and I both sopped up with extra bread after the fish was gone.

We were pleased to reacquaint ourselves with BlackSalt and to know that it continues to be a reliable source for delicious fish a little bit out of the mainstream. It is also a nice, bustling place which gives a sense of a night out on the town.

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