The Gossiping Gourmet: Hyatt's seafood grill is a catch

Hotel restaurants are often mediocre, but sometimes you hit upon a really good one.

Such is the case with SHOR American Seafood Grill at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. It opened a little over a year ago and features simple fresh ingredients. Its motto, written on a chalkboard on one wall, says, "Thoughtfully sourced. Carefully served."

The room is large and pleasant, in tones of gray with white accents. I would call the décor casual chic. There is a large outdoor patio in the front with lots of pretty vegetation and another outdoor dining area in the back looking out on the lovely gardens.

The menu leans heavily on seafood, but steaks and chicken are also available. I was very impressed with the quality of the mussels, which are from the Carlsbad Aquafarm. The mussels were small, tender and sweet. Having been braised in beer, they lounged in a delicious tomato sauce infused with garlic and lightly cooked onions and were heightened with bits of spicy sausage. They were accompanied by a mini baguette for sopping up the luscious broth.

Starters include Pacific oysters, baked oysters and shrimp cocktail. The cooked appetizers feature calamari and blackened shrimp, to name a couple, and, of course, there are soups and salads. Brandy-laced lobster bisque sounded tasty.

My favorite dining partner had American blue crab cakes that were a combination of minced crab and breadcrumbs dotted with nice, big pieces of crab. Peppery arugula lay on top, and the cakes rested on spicy remoulade sauce. A very good avocado relish with a spicy chipotle sauce was served on the side.

Our waiter recommended the scallops, and I was glad he did. Four big, beautiful diver scallops were perfectly cooked and served moist with a delicate brown coat of porcini dust. A sweet balsamic glaze provided the finishing touch. They were seated on silky smoked potato puree, which was dotted with fresh corn kernels and bits of crisp bacon.

My dining companion made his selection from the "Grill 'em and fire 'em" category of the menu. This section offers three different steaks, three different fish and one chicken breast to choose from. Diners can then select the seasonings and choose from among eight different sauces.

You might choose the cilantro garlic rub for your steak. Then pair it with house-made steak sauce or Bearnaise. The old bay seasoning and carrot ginger sauce would be nice with fish.

He selected the Skuna Bay salmon with chili lime rub and the citrus butter sauce. Skuna Bay salmon is farm-raised on the coast of Vancouver Island. Unlike many salmon fisheries, this one farms the fish in their natural ocean environment of flowing, glacier-fed water. You can really taste the difference.

The salmonwas also perfectly cooked with a beautiful char and moist flesh. A choice of a side comes with the entrée. He opted for the green beans, which were slightly al dente and dressed in a pancetta vinaigrette.

From the "Specialties" menu, Cioppino was tempting, along with house-made lobster ravioli and Pacific pink shrimp risotto. The restaurant has a surf and turf of beef tenderloin and butter-poached lobster tail. We will certainly go back to sample more of the menu.

Once again, we were disappointed with dessert. It seems that fewer and fewer restaurants these days have an actual dessert chef. Instead, they do easy-to-make things like fruit crisps with ice cream on the side. This was an apple pear crisp. The fruit was not particularly tasty and there was too much sweetness. The crisp was not very crispy, but the dulche de leche ice cream was fine.

We thought the overall dining experience was really very good, and the surroundings are lovely.

TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at m_markowitz@cox.net.

SHOR American Seafood Grill

Where: Hyatt Regency, 1107 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach

When: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. daily

Prices:

Appetizers: $9 to $15

Entrées: $22 to $46

Desserts: $8 to $10

Wine:

Bottles: $36 to $124

By the glass: $8.50 to $18

Corkage fee: $15

Information: (949) 729-1234 or newportbeach.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/SHORAmericanSeafoodGrill.html

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