Washington, DC 20007
Ah brunch! There probably isn't a better meal than brunch especially Sunday Brunch. The implication is that it's a special event during the week to be savored and guilt-free. Every brunch menu is a murderer's row of food cravings with savory egg dishes, sausage, bacon, pancakes with sweet maple syrup, and french toast or waffles for breakfast and burgers, french fries and friend fish for those who like lunch for brunch. This particular Sunday, I found myself looking at a long day of work due to a day-long meeting the next day so I wanted to start it off right with a proper meal. I went to BlackSalt which is just right over the Potomac river in DC from Arlington.
As you drive up to BlackSalt, you can't help notice how picturesque the neighborhood is. I took the scenic route across the Chain Bridge and it was street after tree-lined street with perfectly manicured houses and lawns. I've never heard of the Palisades, which is just west of Georgetown, but it seems like a perfect little slice of Americana (well, undoubtedly wealthy Americana). BlackSalt can be found in a little cluster of shops and restaurants close to the Safeway. There looked to be some sort of Farmer's Market right beside it and I would have probably stopped to peruse it if it wasn't raining. At you walk in, you notice the market part of the restaurant with an offering of a variety of fresh fish and seafood. It looked very fresh and while I didn't buy anything, I noted that I needed to come back and try it. The crowd and atmosphere can be best described as very preppy and yuppie. There's nothing wrong with that (and I've been accused of being the same in my lifetime) but you know you're not going to get anything cutting edge as it comes to the food and your best hope that the fare will be simple yet very solid. BlackSalt delivers on that foreshadowing and it turned out to be a very enjoyable brunch.
From the service to the food, the restaurant did the little details very well. I started off with an order of coffee, OJ and Louisiana Poached Eggs. I mention the coffee because it came out in a large mug which I feel isn't done enough by in restaurants (especially for brunch). Give me coffee and give me lots of it! As a nice touch, it came with a piece of shortbread biscotti which was a delightfully sweet beginning. They also brought a wonderfully simple fruit salad with sliced grapes, cantaloupe, honeydew and pineapple. It had some thyme mixed in with the natural juices of the fruit. It came with a rather large spoon so it was awkward to eat (especially so since you can't stop eating it) but was a cool and fresh palate cleanser for the much heavier dishes about to come out. I ordered a side of hardwood smoked slab bacon. When it arrived, it looked savory and fantastic. Unfortunately, it was a bit too chewy and didn't have enough crispiness that you crave in bacon. They also left on the skin which made it a bit more chewy than I would like. Nevertheless, it's still bacon. 'Nuff said.
The Louisiana Poached Eggs consisted of Blue Shell Crab meat, Crawfish, Ham and Cayenne Hollandaise sauce on top of a piece of cornbread. While this seems like an adventurous take on Eggs Benedict, it's just Eggs Benedict with ingredients from Louisiana. It was also savory, rich and very tasty. The poached eggs were perfectly poached and when poked opened up great amounts of yolk goodness. I've always liked crab meat with Hollandaise and egg yolk (well, I've always liked anything with Hollandaise and egg yolk) and the addition of the sweetness of the crawfish gave it an additional contrast of texture and flavors. I admit that I didn't taste much of the cayenne in the Hollandaise but the all around flavors of everything else may have drowned it out too much. The cornbread was still incredibly flaky and flavor even with all the things sitting on top of it. It's distinct flavor never got lost even with soaking up the sauce and eggs.
I was a bit more hungry so I ordered some dessert which turned out to be the Banana Coconut Cream Pie. Again, nothing ground-breaking but well thought out, solid and very flavorful. The crust was a bit too doughy for me and maybe could have used a bit more time in the oven. The pie was constructed with pieces of banana placed on the crust with the banana cream on top of that and then some whipped cream. There was roasted coconut sprinkled on top along with a piece of dark chocolate. Drizzled all over the plate was some chocolate sauce with chocolate powder. To finish it off, there was a piece of basil and some caramelized bananas on the side. The pie itself was rich, creamy and sweet as you would expect combining some of my favorite flavors. To me, the highlight of the dessert were the caramelized bananas and the crunch it provided to contrast all the softness in the dessert. I accidentally ate the two leaves of basil whole and while I like herbs in my dessert, they should serve a purpose and I feel like the basil wasn't properly incorporated here. But, those are such nits to something that was a great way to end a meal.
You won't find trend-setting, at least at brunch, at BlackSalt which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some days you just want to find a restaurant that delivers good-tasting, solid and simple food. While I wouldn't consider BlackSalt a comfort food restaurant (it definitely lies at the higher end of restaurants), I would call it's food comforting and tasty enough to warrant another visit for brunch and any of it's other services.