Hot List: Seattle, Cozumel, London, Prague, Dubai, Shanghai

100108--L%27Anima--MT.jpgL’Anima, London.

Brilliant Italian cuisine served in a love-it-or-loath-it glass box of a restaurant characterizes the scene at L’Anima. Chef/owner Francesco Mazzei draws inspiration from Sicily, Sardinia, and Calabria, and works the floor, bar, and glass-fronted kitchen like the proud owner he is. Wild mushroom and black truffle tagliolini are near perfection, as is the baked sea bass— as succulent as you could wish. The wines are mainly Italian. 1 Snowden St., The City. 020/7422-7000. Reservations essential. AE, MC, V. Closed Sat. & Sun. Median entrée price: £18.50

Branzino, Seattle.

Branzino holds its own in a sea of hip Belltown restaurants, on a block that boasts some of Seattle’s finest dining royalty. Owners Peter Lamb and Michael Rico teamed up with Chef Ashley Merriman for this Italian-influenced seafood spot. Think simple, yet hearty fare—ideal for Seattle’s cooler fall temperatures. An unlikely pairing of manila clams and boar cheeks contrast perfectly with one-another atop crisp pizza. Lobster risotto studded with chunks of fresh, tender meat will destroy any anti-carb diet. And, yes, branzino (or Mediterranean sea bass) is the restaurant’s namesake and signature dish. Service is heartfelt, but skips a few beats. The upbeat and inviting ambiance along with the décor—dark wood, cream-colored walls, amber lighting—are suitable for the predominantly twenty-something clientele. Parties up to six can reserve a high-backed booth. 2429 2nd Ave., Belltown. 206/728-5181. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Closed Sun. & Mon. Median entrée price: $21.

Kinta Mexican Bistro, Cozumel.

Like any tourist destination, culinary options in Cozumel run the gamut from cheap taquerias to overpriced and over-hyped dining rooms. Enter new dining darling Kinta Mexican Bistro, which has successfully met the demand for fresh, affordable, and authentic local fare. The menu changes every few months and may feature dishes such as chile poblano relleno stuffed with vegetable ratatouille and cheese with a chipotle cream sauce; and pescado pozole, the catch of the day (red snapper at the time of review) served over a pool of red pozole. Warm interior lighting, an exposed kitchen, and mellow music make for a casual yet intimate experience. Pack some bug spray, reserve a table in the romantic garden out back, and while away a warm evening over a steady stream of sangria. Av. 5 between Calle 2 and Calle 4 North, Cozumel. 987/869-0544. No lunch. Closed Mon. & Sun. MC, V. Median entrée price: $12 USD.

maze, Prague.

Gordon Ramsay doesn’t lack ambition—or hubris—but he has the skills to back up his bravado at this spot located in the renovated Hilton Old Town. Head chef Phillip Carmichael is the actual man at the stoves, and his food hews to the Ramsay formula with dishes like warmed salmon, saddle of rabbit, and pan-roasted pork belly. Carmichael is bold enough to have his own take on the classic Czech roast duck; here the sliced breast is bolstered by red cabbage with sweet notes of cinnamon. The atmosphere is overformal at times—each course literally arrives on a silver platter—but that’s a welcome change in Prague, where service is frequently a weak link. The 650 Kc three-course lunch menu is a steal for the impecunious gourmet. V Celnici 7, Staré Mesto, 111 21. 221-822-300. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: 600 Kc.

Dubai Desert Palm, Dubai.

This luxurious Dubai desert retreat doesn’t hold back on the amenities, mixing hot Arabian style with cool Italian chic and adding a touch of polo club to the mix—by actually having a polo club. Clearly, this is not your average resort, and with only a couple of dozen rooms (everything from poolside rooms to a two-bedroom villa with its own pool), it has an exclusive feel. The service, like most high-end Dubai properties, starts at the airport and doesn’t end until you’re back there again. Heading off to test your credit card limits in one of area’s mega-malls (a short drive from the resort) requires a concerted effort—particularly given that the hotel’s spa, infinity pool, pretty ponies, and creative cuisine beckon. Pros: in-room designer amenities; small number of guests giving an air of exclusivity. Cons: car or taxi necessary to see other parts of Dubai. Al Awir Road, PO Box 103635, Dubai. 971/4-3238888 (ph.).971/4-3238053 (fax). www.desertpalm.ae. 24 rooms. In-room: safe, kitchen (some), refrigerator, DVD, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 2 restaurants, room service, bar, tennis courts, pool, gym, spa, children’s programs (all ages), laundry service, concierge, airport shuttle, parking (no fee). AE, MC, V. Rooms start at: 1,898 AED.

URBN, Shanghai.

Constructed with environmentally-sensitive technology and recycled materials, Shanghai’s first carbon-neutral hotel, URBN, is innovatively designed and environmentally friendly. The service is attentive and well-trained, making guests feel at home from the moment they step into the hotel’s tree-shaded courtyard. The interior design is superb, from leather interior and slate decor to the quiet, private bar on the top floor. URBN provides a wide variety of alternative entertainment, including Chinese cookery, bike tours, yoga lessons, and calligraphy and tai chi classes. Pros: eco-friendly; luxe setting; elegant design, some of the best cocktails in town. Cons: not terribly suitable for mobility impaired guests. 183 Jiaozhou Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu, Jing’an, 200040. 021/5153—4600 (ph.). 021/5153-4610 (fax). www.urbnhotels.com. 24 rooms, 2 suites. In-room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Internet. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, bar, laundry service, executive floor, no-smoking rooms, Wi-Fi. AE, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: 1,850 CNY.

Contributors: Alexander Basek, Lara Dunston, Emma Fox, David Taylor, Alex Wijeratna

Photo Credit: Courtesy of L’Anima.

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