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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Black Salt Restaurant in Washington DC


look at all of that deliciousness






The minute we decided to drive to Washington for NYE, I started researching restaurants obsessively, as I tend to do. Although there is no shortage of really great places to eat in that city, this place, consistently on every "best of" list in the city,  was one of the top restaurants on my "must try" list for our trip. Like Goldilocks, I was looking for something that was not too trendy, not too stuffy and not too expensive - this place sounded juuuuust right. I had originally hoped that we could eat there on NYE but it was completely booked so we made a reservation for lunch that day instead and, in the end, I think it was even better.

After a $15 taxi ride from the Mall (we were Smithsonian hopping), we stopped in what looks like a nice, residential neighbourhood in front of an unassuming looking place. Our taxi driver seemed at a loss to name the neighbourhood, but I finally got him to commit to "the Palisades" when pressed. Maybe my cab driver was also from Toronto, who knows?  It's on MacArthur Avenue which kind of runs along the Potomac River and although there appears to be a bus that you could catch from downtown, it's just easier to catch a cab unless you are driving yourself.


To get to the restaurant in the back, you first must walk through the bustling fish market up front, where people are purchasing all manner of seafood. The smell of the sea hits you in the face the minute you open the front door and continues to chase you as you make your way past so if you are not a fan of seafood, this might not be as thrilling for you as it was for my party but for us, it just made us hungrier than we already were. It does not smell unpleasantly "fishy" at all, just briny and salty and seafoody.


A handsome and stylish young fellow led us to a nice table in the back with a great view of the open kitchen, which I love. For me, it's like dinner theatre to be able to watch the cooking staff working their magic in a big, spotless kitchen while I wait for my own meal to arrive. Little touches like the blue pendant lights reassure me that great care is clearly taken in every aspect of this acclaimed restaurant so I am not surprised when this attention to detail is carried over to the presentation in all of our dishes.


This is not an inexpensive restaurant, by any means, but their weekday $20 prix fixe "express" menu is a steal. You have your choice of either salad or soup, an entree and either dessert or a glass of one of their featured wines. If you want, for another $5 you can either have both soup and salad or add the glass of wine/beer to your starter/entree/dessert order. 





We started off with salads: I had the daily vegetable salad which was so much more delicious than it sounds. It was chock full of roasted beets and other seasonal vegetables with a really nice, mild vinaigrette. I was lucky enough to steal a bite of The Kid's arugula salad before he demolished it and it was equally delicious.



The Kid and I both opted for the cornmeal crusted tilapia tacos, even though there was a tempting wood grilled tuna sandwich on the menu and although I wasn't sure I had chosen wisely, I was really happy when the tacos arrived. I know that tilapia isn't exactly a sexy fish and part of me was wondering what the point is for ordering a fish I eat three times a day at home, but we both just really wanted a taco. The fish was crispy, the ancho crema was rich and nicely spiced and the serving size was surprisingly large. I had assumed that because the price was so reasonable (the regular order of tacos is already $17) that we would be served a smaller version of everything, but this was not the case at all.


Our lunch mate skipped the prix fixe because she was dying for a crab cake and after one bite she assured us that this was one fine crab cake, indeed. She is a Boston native and is very picky about these little babies so if she gives it the long groan of deliciousness while chowing down, it's a good sign. The accompanying kettle style potato chips were so thin and crisp that they almost melted on the tongue after the first crunch. I would go back just for those chips and a glass of wine. Okay, I would probably have to have the key lime pie too, who am I kidding?


 To call this just "key lime pie" is so understated that it is almost a lie. Sure, that is a key lime pie under those lovely meringue pillows but there is also a little shard of white chocolate, a crisp wafer cookie, a nice little blob of blueberry compote and a gorgeous, citrusy sauce to dip every bite in. It was the dessert of my dreams. I have recently discovered that blueberries + key lime anything = happy place.


This chambord truffle chocolate cake was also so much more than advertised. Sure, again, there is a deeply rich chocolate truffle cake but look at that dark chocolate mantilla looking bit, the macerated berries, the whipped cream and dark chocolate drizzle - it was almost too pretty to eat. Okay, we got over that and ate the entire thing lickity split but remember those blue pendant lights in the kitchen?


If you add it all up, the salads were $10, the tacos were $17 and the desserts were $5 and the ability to add a glass of wine for another $5 makes this the deal of the century. Do NOT go to Washington without making the trek out to Black Salt and if you want to eat to your heart's content without breaking the bank, go for lunch during the week.





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