Food & Drink

Bistro 300 in Hyatt Regency gets it right

You can say this about Hyatt: It keeps its properties fresh.

I was looking back at the different concepts that have populated the Hyatt Regency Baltimore on Light Street since 1981. Who remembers Berry & Elliott's, the upper-story predecessor to now-bygone Pisces? You'd have to be a real old-timer to remember the Trellis Garden, the original name for the third-floor dining facility that eventually became Bistro 300.


The name remains the same — and, really, who could improve on Bistro 300? — but the look is different. The third-floor space, now the hotel's only restaurant, reopened in early February after an upgrade that's as surprising as it is thorough.

Gone for good is the old trellis motif, which started to feel like a unisex hair salon. The new space is dramatic, with aspects of utopian science-fiction movies. Monumental lighting fixtures hang from the high atrium ceiling, and bordering the main dining floor is an illuminated waterscape the size of a small lake. For a room without a view, it's pretty impressive. Bistro 300 is worth visiting even if you're not staying in the hotel.


With the unveiling of the new Bistro 300 comes a new menu, which introduces Baltimore to the new Hyatt global food philosophy. It embraces values like responsible sourcing, fresh ingredients and portion control.

How serious is Hyatt? Fish entrees feature Arctic char and black sea bass, species with much better sustainable profiles than Atlantic salmon and Chilean sea bass, the fish they're standing in for. It says something that Hyatt trusts guests not to freak out when they don't recognize something on the menu. It speaks badly of restaurants in these parts that don't.

The menu doesn't talk much about local purveyors, but here and there is a name that might ring a bell. At the start, there's a delicious soup made with tomatoes from Hummingbird Farms in Caroline County. On the dessert menu, there's Moorenko's ice cream from Silver Spring. Kale, mustard greens, apples, and goat cheese are from regional farms, too.

You can appreciate the challenges in putting a corporate philosophy on a plate: Play it too safe and it makes your messaging sound hollow. Take things too far, you risk alienating the guests in your hotel. I think they've calibrated the new Bistro 300 menu exactly right.

The menu is succinct, with just a handful of appetizers and a half-dozen entrees. It's approachable, too. The preparations are simple and straightforward, free of foam and frills.

Aromatic and richly spicy, and served with a sliver-sized grilled brie sandwich, the tomato soup is a big winner. So were the other first courses, like a minutely seasoned and velvety cream of crab soup, and an outstanding Caesar salad, one of the few true Caesars I've seen lately, with homemade croutons and real anchovy in the dressing. Even the crab salad, so often a dud, was good here, freshened up with bone-white radish slices and pith-free grapefruit segments, and hand-dressed with a citrus vinaigrette.

If the entrees dropped off a little, they never displeased us. The best of them was a thick and juicy dry-aged New York strip steak, precisely cooked and served with a puree of truffled onions and sided with blue cheese-infused mashed potatoes.

The chicken papardelle pasta had some nice qualities, particularly its robust tomato pesto cream, but the chicken itself had little flavor. Almost any other meat would have worked better.


A cioppino fish stew had a good spicy broth and pretty specimens of shrimp, scallops and green-lip mussels, but it was too carefully arranged and portioned to earn the name of cioppino. The only dish that I wouldn't recommend is the Arctic char entree, which would have been better with a different sauce. Its ginger-soy caramel glaze was thick and dull.

Otherwise, there's proficiency and confidence on display. Dishes are executed and presented well, accompanied by fresh-looking, crispy vegetables like haricots verts and garnished with poppy effects like ruby red beet ribbons.

Desserts are fun, sticky creations like Heath bar cookie sandwiches filled with chili pepper ice cream, an upside-down apple tart with cinnamon ice cream and a plate of house-made "Twinkies."

Or instead of sweets, you can have cheese. Bistro 300 has an impressive cheese program. Ask about it.

Actually, ask the staff anything: They love it! Ask for the bar menu, which you can order from in the dining room, or about crab cakes, which aren't on the menu but are always available — I love that solution.

The floor staff seem genuinely enthusiastic about the new setting and the menu. And by enthusiastic, I mean I assumed that by the end of the evening they would all be coming home with us. If diners are in danger of insistent solicitousness, that, as they say, should be the worst thing that happens to you.


Bistro 300

Rating: ***

Where: 300 Light St., Inner Harbor

Contact: 410-528-1234,

Open: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily


Prices: Appetizers $8.50-$14; entrees $20-$32

Food: Contemporary versions of classic American dishes

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Dish Baltimore


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Service: Enthusiastic, with some hovering.

Best dishes: Hummingbird Farms tomato soup, Caesar salad, New York strip steak

Parking: Adjacent garage parking is $5 for three hours.

Children: The restaurant offers a children's menu for each meal period.


Noise level: For a high-ceilinged room, surprisingly comfortable

Dietary considerations: Most menu items can be modified to accommodate dietary restrictions

[Key: Superlative:*****; Excellent:****; Very Good:***; Good:**; Promising:*]