Enjoying a meal with a view Restaurant: At the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, Windows offers inviting downtown scenery and mostly inviting food.

January 04, 1998|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Some of the prettiest restaurants in Baltimore can be found in the hotels that hug the Inner Harbor. Windows, at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, is a lovely place to dine, especially if you reserve a table overlooking Pratt Street.

Floor-to-ceiling windows let in the bright lights and bustle of the harbor. Mirrors, blond wood and crystal chandeliers create an atmosphere of modern, streamlined elegance. The restaurant was just as inviting recently as it had been on a visit last year.

Executive chef Timothy P. Mullen and new restaurant chef Mitch Cooper have kept the emphasis at Windows on fresh seafood and Chesapeake region specialties. Our waiter, who was as polished and attentive as they come, said the crab cakes and the crab chowder were not to be missed.

Both crab dishes were fine, but they were short of exceptional. The chowder was a little skimpy on crab meat, but looked appealing served in a sourdough boule (bread bowl). Two jumbo lump crab cakes, broiled to within seconds of being overdone, were full of beautiful lump crab meat. They were served with steamed vegetables and lime tartar sauce. Another wonderful white nugget of crab turned up on the baked oysters, under a rich, lemony sauce.

Our favorite starter was the salad of mixed greens featuring tender, smoky rounds of chicken breast and a lovely pepper vinaigrette. Tiny squares of pancetta and roasted vegetables gave an appetizer of pan-roasted mussels an interesting turn.

From the quartet of fish selections cooked over a wood-fired grill, we tried an enormous tuna steak. It arrived on a mound of saffron risotto, garnished with asparagus spears. Even though it was cooked just as we asked, with a hint of pink inside, the tuna was slightly tough. We loved the smoky flavor the grill imparted, though, and the pool of fragrant basil oil that lined the plate.

The wood-fired grill is not reserved for fish alone. If you prefer a filet mignon, a custom-cut steak, or even grilled vegetables, the chef will oblige.

To judge from the rack of lamb, meat is handled exceptionally well at Windows. Tender, rare and rubbed with jerk spices for a Caribbean slow burn, the lamb chops paired nicely with pineapple chutney and whipped sweet potatoes.

A sauced fish

Among the evening's specials, a beautiful cut of halibut, thick and white as a New England snowdrift, was given a buttery crumb topping spiked with fresh horseradish. A creamy pink sauce made with smoked tomatoes and buttered haricots verts added a flourish to the dish; lukewarm mashed potatoes did not.

As for dessert, we liked the texture of the tall, creamy pumpkin cheesecake, the raspberry glaze on the chocolate mousse cake, and the peanut-studded whipped cream of the rich chocolate gateau.

Ultimately, though, we felt about these desserts as we had the rest of our meal: They were fine but not extraordinary.

Windows

Where: Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, 202 E. Pratt St.

Hours: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$7.95; entrees, $12.95-$26.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-685-8439

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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