I recently returned to the new Black’s Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda- if you can even call it returning. The place was entirely redone, with a stylish interior and that wasn’t so hip as in “this place looks too hip for Bethesda.” A glowing red sign announces its arrival, and a lighted pool of water makes the outside seating something special. I am typically a fan of Black’s restaurants, and the old BB and K in Bethesda was probably my least favorite, so I was excited to see what they had done with it.
Due to their new menu with an abundance of small plates and starters, I was able to taste a wide variety of things. The goat cheese tartlet small plate was a disappointment – an oversized chunk of goat cheese was placed inside/on top of a phyllo cup. The small beets on top made for a few tasty bites, but when those ran out the rest was quite bland. Corn cakes with green tomato jam tasted like, well, pancakes and regular jam. However, I did become addicted to the mini biscuits in the bread basket.
Soup has long been a strong point at Black’s, and this trip was no different. Both the daily soup, white bean and sausage, and the tomato gazpacho with crab, had appeal. However, the gazpacho had a food-trend accompaniment of celery sorbet, which sounded interesting by tasted less like sorbet than celery flavored ice. A crab cake appetizer did not seem to interest my dining companion. Halibut with vegetables and a carrot vanilla sauce tasted how you would expect it would—not phenomenal, but it seemed somewhat healthy, which I can appreciate.
Which brings me to dessert, something in which I do not appreciate healthy over phenomenal. Luckily, that isn’t what I found here. Typically the Black’s desserts are quite good but are very sugary and gigantic in size (quite seriously, it once took me an entire week to eat a tiramisu I had taken home from Blacksalt, which consisted of huge tiramisu, cookies, truffles, and brittle.) In true Black’s fashion, these desserts were huge and sweet. The chocolate composition consisted of a chocolate panna cotta, flourless cake, and an ice cream sandwich. The panna cotta had a nice cookie crust and was a good first bite, but its chocolate flavor soon fell flat in comparison to the other items. Flourless chocolate cake was your typical good flourless chocolate cake. The best part of the dessert was the chocolate cookies (did I detect espresso?) that made up the ice cream sandwich. Blueberry strudel was fine but huge—two pieces of strudel with a mound of corn ice cream on a caramelized half-peach. It was big. The strudel was fine, but the ice cream didn’t taste very much like sweet corn to me. This is probably a good thing for the less adventurous eater but I was a little disappointed.
So there you have it. I would say that I still prefer Blacksalt and Black Market to this one, but it’s a pretty good restaurant in Bethesda and that’s a rarity. Check it out if you want to see what they are up to.