2011 Fall Dining Guide By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, October 16, 2011
If only there were more time to cook! I think to myself whenever I walk into BlackSalt in the Palisades and see the display of fish, an ice show that might feature Maryland striped bass, king mackerel, fresh calamari and baby octopus. One of the area's best sources for retail seafood flows into a bar and dining room that aren't much to look at but definitely deliver. Fried clams, pure and simple, whisk you to the shore; grilled branzino is delivered whole. "The head and tail can be removed" in the kitchen, says a smart server ahead of time, "but we prefer to keep them intact." The snowy fish is great on its own, better in the company of black-eyed peas and bacon vinaigrette. Not every dish is worthy of Poseidon. Tuna tartare is a dull pink paste, and the bouillabaisse could use a bolder tomato broth. But every step of the way, there's something wonderful to catch your fancy, be it a well-made cocktail, a fine fist of rockfish or a coconut cream pie with bruleed bananas and roasted pineapple that Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island" could only dream of baking.
The Food section rated this restaurant's crab cake for a July 2009 story about the area's best.
Sauteed just long enough to create a crisp top and bottom, then finished briefly in the oven, these crab cakes were about the handsomest of our taste test. Bits of jalapeno pepper should have been a deal-breaker ingredient, but they work, as do the aioli and onion. The fish market at the front of the house earns points for being one of the few establishments currently using Maryland crab. The crab cake sold at lunch comes on a rich brioche bun with lemon-caper aioli and a smart house slaw ($16).
Two 4.5-ounce jumbo-lump crab cakes, $28 to $32; available as a dinner entree if the crab cakes are in stock at the market