Ironically, Black's is owned by the same group that owns a restaurant that has been on my "to eat" list for some time - BlackSalt (also in their group are Addie's Restaurant (Rockville) and Black Market Bistro (Garrett Park)). I had heard rave reviews about BlackSalt, a seafood restaurant in the Palisades, but Black's Bar and Kitchen was (at that time) unknown to me.
So we saddled up and drove out to Bethesda... next door to Black's is a huge parking garage (hurrah! free parking, and loads of it!) so we quickly darted out of the cold from the parking garage to the restaurant.
Immediately after stepping into Black's, we felt warmed -- although fairly large, the restaurant itself felt cozy and inviting, with dimmed lighting, beautiful wood paneled walls, and cushy booths. We sat in one of the booths in the bar section, with an excellent view of the open kitchen. The bar section offers both the regular menu and an additional menu of smaller bites -- I love a wide selection (despite my indecisiveness...), so I welcomed the chance to pick from a larger array of choices!
Our waitress was bubbly and friendly - she rattled off their specials, each one sounding more tasty than the last. I admit, it took me quite awhile to decide what to get. Black's menu came across as very farm fresh -- loads of seasonal produce, local fish and meat options (in fact, I just noticed this, Black's is self-described as "blending organic ingredients and regional flavors with a light and fresh flair" -- sounds like an accurate description to me!). Over time, these are the types of restaurants that I've become increasingly attracted to -- ones that serve not overly fancy food, but food that is made of fresh ingredients with techniques that allow those flavors to come through and just generally good, satisfying food.
After mentally deciding to come back, we decided to get the following: (1) crispy squid with creole tartar sauce, (2) the appetizer special - slices of suckling pig on a bed of sauteed mushrooms topped with a fried egg, (3) yellowfin tuna quarter pounder with frisee, vine ripe tomatoes, tangy dijon and house made chips (for Mr. J ... delicious! I think I plan to get this next time), and (4) wood grilled Chesapeake Bay bluefish with black truffle pierogies, soft herb sauce, and red cabbage sauerkraut (below).
The calamari (below) was very tender and fresh (not chewy like you often find at restaurants) with a bit of kick (paprika? cayenne?). I wasn't bowled over by the bluefish (although the skin was so crispy, which I love), but could have eaten the sides it came with again and again.
By the time we embarked on dessert options, the restaurant was filled with other people that apparently had the same idea to escape out of the cold to this retreat. We hardly thought we could eat dessert, but after hearing Mr. J talk about the pumpkin mousse they had last time and also watching dessert after dessert pass by us, I couldn't resist (and I always did say I had a separate compartment for desserts...). My frontrunners were the spoken of pumpkin mousse with caramel ice cream, butterscotch creme brulee with vanilla madeleines (I love butterscotch and madeleines!), or the bourbon pecan tart with maple ice cream (perfect for the upcoming holiday!). We fell for the pumpkin mousse and it was the right choice... it was almost like a pumpkin panna cotta, not too heavy, quite light, and filled with pumpkin-y goodness (all atop a graham cracker).
All in all, a wonderful night -- good company, stomach warming satisfying food, friendly service, and enjoyable surroundings.