Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FOOD: BlackSalt

I wish I had taken a moment to write down some better notes, but it was at the start of a grueling business trip that I enjoyed a most excellent seafood dinner with my friend Don. Don, who is always on top of the Washington restaurant scene, recommended BlackSalt, a restaurant on Macarthur Blvd in the Palisades neighborhood. The front of the place is a small fish market, where it was obvious from the beautifully arranged slabs of triggerfish, tilefish, and grouper that these people are very serious about fresh, local seafood. The menu, arranged with some regular items on the left and daily specials filling the right, presented so many tempting options that I finally decided to make a meal of three appetizers and a salad. (Fortunately, I had worked through lunch that day, so was hungry, as the appetizers are nicely sized.) Even the simple salad -- a mouth-awakening combination of fresh watercress, tangerine, and a cumin dressing -- heralded the creativity of the chef. The waiter came back with a request from the kitchen to stage one of my appetizers, bringing the other two with Don's main course, which I agreed to, appreciating their attention in serving things with appropriate temperature and timing. The one they brought first is the one I remember most clearly, as it was such a novel combination of flavors -- morsels of sweet, tender Maryland crabmeat combined with red quinoa, capers, and golden sultanas (currant raisins). It was an amazing and delicious combination of flavors and textures, bits of sweet, creamy, briny and earthy, an unexpectedly wonderful blend. My other treats included some plump dayboat scallops that were perfectly cooked and served with wax beans, and a perfectly cooked piece of triggerfish delicately flavored. I also had a bite of Don's tuna, equally excellent. I wish I'd written down more of the details before they partly receded into the haze of several grueling all-nighters at work. But I do remember enough to know that the freshness and quality of the ingredients, the exquisite care in the preparation, and the dazzling creativity of the combinations made this one of the finest seafood dinners I've ever enjoyed.

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