2014 Spring Dining Guide By Tom Sietsema
May 15, 2014
You know you’re in a prime spot for fishing the moment you spy the retail display that fronts one of the few reasons to eat in the Palisades. A sniff of the ocean-y air and perusal of the clear-eyed ingredients — arranged on ice as if jewels on velvet — instill confidence in those who have come here to enjoy the work of new chef Mike Huff rather than to cook their own lunch, brunch or dinner. Past a wall painted with a school of fish is a silvery bar and a dining room done in sepia tones and frosted glass. The setting could use some freshening up, but there’s no denying the pristine appeal of the oysters on the half shell or the simple beauty of a bowl of smoky clam chowder, crowded with tender clams in their shells as well as fried clams as a topper. Cornmeal-crisped tilapia with stripes of chili crema and biting slaw make for rib-sticking tacos; golden skate wing with pillows of gnocchi and English peas reveal the kitchen’s more refined side. Off notes make for restrained applause. An otherwise delicious oyster po’ boy would be better with more of the namesake filling, and salmon on white beans needs more of its advertised preserved lemon to cut through the entree’s uber-buttery sauce. But BlackSalt scores points with gratis, minty fresh fruit and $6 glasses of wine at brunch and service with not just a smile, but with flair. A parting glance at the treasures on ice — among them live scallops, wild monkfish and soft shell crabs — makes me wish Huff made house calls.
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.
Crab Cake Review
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
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