Washington D.C.'s swanky St. Regis gets a new lease on life...
This relaxed fusion-glam eatery, just outside of Cape Town at the posh Vineyards Hotel & Spa, has all the makings of an über-hip, foodie hot spot, minus the hipsters. The conservatively well-heeled come for chef Mike Basset's fusion flair, evidenced in dishes like the succulent char sui Japanese curry lamb, and mouth-popping abalone, wild mushrooms, and wasabi caviar on soba noodles. High-backed sofas and black chandeliers lend a touch of Alice in Wonderland to the Art Deco-meets-Japanese-nightclub-cool aesthetic. Portions adhere to a tasting-menu philosophy, so plan on three. Don't neglect the fabulous wine list, which features many of the country's best. 60 Colinton Road. Newlands. Cape Town. 021/657-4545. www.myoga.co.za/.
Reservations essential. Closed Sun. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $32 (3-course tasting menu).
The bustling bars and nightclubs that line Austin's famed Sixth Street welcomes a new upscale restaurant for urban chic and late-night diners. Parkside's austere, cavernous interior features bare, exposed brick walls and long black cables dangling single light bulbs above each table. Celebrated Austin chef Shawn Cirkiel has created a menu that delivers on taste, with fresh oysters and ceviche-style offerings from the raw bar and bistro entrées like steak and fries and roasted chicken. Fried oysters with a garlicky aïoli make for a great start. The savory grilled lamb served with tangy roasted peppers is perfectly prepared and surprisingly un-gamey. Buttery snapper arrives sashimi-style with piquant lime and chili accents. For dessert, order the homemade donuts, served sugar-dusted in a plain paper sack. 301 E. 6th St. Downtown. 512/474-9898. www.parkside-austin.com.
Reservations suggested. AE, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $18.
This Louisiana fish camp-themed restaurant gave a boost to the emerging entertainment district surrounding the Fulton Street corridor and Harrah's Casino. All of the seafood served comes from the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, and everything is fresh (never frozen). The rustic interior, reminiscent of 1920s and '30s Louisiana, is the perfect backdrop for turtle stew, spicy boiled shrimp, lobster with roasted shrimp sauce, fresh gulf fish, and a lemon ice-box pie that will make you fall in love with New Orleans all over again. They don't take reservations, and the place is generally packed. But it's worth the wait (waiting will provide you with an excuse to spend some time at the elegant mahogany bar). 575 Convention Center Blvd. CBD. 504/520-8530. www.grandislerestaurant.com.
No Reservations. AE, D, DC, MC, VC. Median entrée price: $16.95.
The St. Regis Washington, D.C.
Don't forget to look up and admire the ornate, hand-painted ceiling in the newly restored lobby of the St. Regis -- it's a good reminder that the sky's the limit when it comes to luxurious details at this elegant 1926 landmark hotel, which reopened in January 2008 after an extensive 16-month restoration. Pratesi linens line the beds, a 15-inch LCD TV is recessed behind the bathroom mirror in every guest room, and personal butlers now carry BlackBerrys, so while you're out you can electronically send requests like "please pack my bags." Just two blocks from the White House, this Italian Renaissance-style hotel attracts a formal business crowd. If you check in with kids, hotel staff will give them FAO Schwarz teddy bears and bring mini-robes to your room. The concierge also keeps a selection of toys and games on hand and can arrange for babysitting. A new health club and an announcement about a new restaurant are slated for late 2008. Pros: two blocks from the White House; newly renovated historic property; exceptional service. Cons: no pool; most rooms don't have great views; pricey. 923 16th and K St., N.W. Downtown. 202/638-2626 or 877/787-3447. www.stregis.com/washington.
175 rooms, 25 suites. In-room: safe, refrigerator (some), DVD (some), Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, gym, spa, laundry service, concierge, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), some pets allowed, no smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at $795.
Malibu Beach Inn.
The location on exclusive and private Carbon Beach can't be beat. Third-floor ocean-view rooms with wood-beamed ceilings and private balconies are calming and romantic. Feather beds, inset lighting, original artwork, and custom-made furniture combine with creamy yellow walls for designer-perfect rooms. Sophisticated, chic, and completely remodeled in 2007, the Malibu Beach Inn is Los Angeles' most enviable beach stay. Open only to hotel guests, the Carbon Beach Club restaurant overlooks the Pacific Ocean and nearby Malibu pier and showcases California cuisine and Malibu wines. Guests have access to the Sports Club LA across the highway. Teak beach loungers, umbrellas, and towels are provided. Holidays require multi-night stays. Pros: live like a billionaire in designer-perfect interiors right on the beach. Cons: highway noise; no pool, gym, or hot tub. 22878 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. 310/456-6444. www.malibubeachinn.com.
47 rooms, 2 suites. In-room facilities: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet. In-hotel facilities: restaurant, room service, bar, beachfront, laundry service, concierge, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at $375.
Recently taken over by the burgeoning Millennium hotel group, this hotel was completely refurbished in 2007 and given a smart new look. The lobby is sleek and modern, with polished wood columns, a warming fireplace, and glittering chandeliers. Guest rooms are done up in neutral creams and earth tones, and blond wood desks and leather chairs have a blandly masculine look. The hotel is popular with business travelers, so rooms come equipped with satellite TV channels and fast broadband connections. Bathrooms are small, but have all you need. The two hotel bars and several restaurants means you don't have to go out if you'd prefer to stay in. Pros: good deals available if you book in advance. Cons: public spaces and restaurant can get crowded. 4-18 Harrington Gardens. Kensington. 020/7373-6030. www.millenniumhotels.co.uk/millenniumgloucester/index.html.
143 rooms. In-room: safe, refrigerator, Wi-Fi, Ethernet (free). In-hotel: room service, restaurant, no-smoking rooms. AE, MC, V. Rooms start at £159(approximately $309 USD).
Contributors: Christi Daugherty, Jessica Dupuy, Paul Greenberg, Beth Kanter, Kathy A. McDonald, Lee Middleton