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Hot List: San Francisco, London, Prague, Dubai, Minneapolis, Japan

101508--CzecHouse--MT.jpgCzecHouse, Prague.

This favorite spot of convention-goers staying at the Hilton upgraded its kitchen by adding Belgian Peter De Smedt as a new chef. Spying on his work through the window in the kitchen, diners can watch him add haute flair to Czech classics like svíckova (marinated beef with cream sauce) or experiment with dishes like headcheese and melon. Czech wines are similarly of a higher standard, though beer goes very well with most recipes. De Smedt is also a whiz with the restaurant’s wide selection of U.S. beef. Excellent service provides another reason to make the trip to metro station Florenc. Pobrezní 1, Karlín, 186 00. 224-842-125. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: 470 Kc.

L’Ardoise, San Francisco.

This cozy, romantic corner bistro will win your heart with its affordable French cuisine. Chef and owner Thierry Clement adds flavorful flair to dishes such as buttery and tender ravioli filled with tiger prawns, or crisp butter lettuce salad topped with smoked olive oil vinaigrette. Comfort food classics, such as savory duck confit and steak frites, also satisfy. Don’t miss the decadent potato side dish, pommes landaises, made with duck fat. Check the ardoise (chalkboard) for specials—although the dim candlelit ambiance can make it difficult to read. The room is petite and filled with couples on date night—singles may choose to dine at the tiny counter. 151 Noe St., The Castro. 415/437-2600. Closed Mon & Sun. No lunch. AE, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $19.

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Hélène Darroze at the Connaught, London.

London’s crème de la crème flock to Hélène Darroze at the Connaught for exemplary regional French haute cuisine, served in a quintessentially Edwardian wood-paneled hotel dining room. Taking inspiration from Les Landes region in southwest France, Darroze sallies forth with a procession of magical dishes. Caviar d’Acquitaine wows with oyster tartare in a stylish martini glass, topped with black caviar jelly and white haricot bean velouté. Spit-roasted and flambéed grouse is served delightfully pink, with duck foie gras, and mini Brussels sprouts. To finish, enjoy Madagascar chocolate ganache with raspberry sorbet and galangal crème brûlée. Note that the prices are high: £39 for lunch, and £75 or £95 for the set dinners. The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL. 020/3147-7200. Reservations essential. Jacket required. AE, DC, MC, V. Closed Sat. & Sun. Median entrée price: £75.

Frankie’s Italian Bar and Grill, Dubai.

This culinary partnership between a champion jockey, Frankie Detorri, and master chef, Marco Pierre White, sounds like a recipe for fun—and it is. At Frankie’s, Las Vegas crooning comes from the speakers while diners dig into innovative Italian fare. Crystal chandeliers and velvet-covered furnishings give the bar area the feel of a Louisiana brothel, while the sleek dining room is much more contemporary with its mirrored walls and stainless steel fittings. Trattoria fare—pizzas and pastas—don’t quite do justice to the surroundings, so try some of chef Marco Pierre White’s more complex entrées, including grilled sea bass with citrus or duck confit with olives. Al Fattan Marine Tower, Al Sufouh Rd., Dubai Marina. 4/399-4311. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: 120 AED.

W Minneapolis – The Foshay, Minneapolis.

The W Minneapolis successfully transforms a beautifully restored 1929 Art Deco landmark into a historically chic boutique hotel. The hotel’s Living Room bar makes use of the building’s preserved storefront windows by putting the packs of scenesters on display. A more intimate skybar complete with African mahogany and art deco design awaits on the hotel’s 27th floor. Guests will love the nationally renowned onsite steakhouse, Manny’s. The free chauffeur service within a 5-mile radius puts some of the city’s best shopping and neighborhoods within reach. The observation deck and mini-museum on the top floor offers spectacular views of the city. Pros: downtown scene is at your doorstep; skyway accessible. Cons: more of a hipster scene than family-friendly; feels as if the party is in your hotel. 821 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis, 55402. 612/215-3700. 211 rooms, 18 suites. In room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet. In hotel: 4 restaurants, room service, 2 bars, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking fee, pets allowed, no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: $299.

Hotel Screen, Japan.

Kyoto is a city steeped in tradition, and for a long time its hotel options have been too—choices are limited to a range of futon-and-tatami ryokan (Japanese inn) or boring mid-level business hotels. The capital’s first boutique property, the Hotel Screen, offers 13 mostly-white rooms enlivened by artisans who have uniquely designed each room, from hand painting and gilding sliding doors to hanging yards of gauzy white curtains that create an atmosphere of (literally) sheer fantasy. The rooftop bar and courtyard dining are great public spaces during clement weather; when it’s rainy or cold, the chic lobby and serviceable restaurant suffice. Pros: located in a quiet and elegant residential neighborhood of antique shops and French bakeries; the hotel’s block features two charming temples and Ippodo, Kyoto’s most classic tea purveyor. Cons: the emphasis here is on “trendy”; service is casual and slow. 640-1 Shimogoryomae-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan. 075/252-1113 (ph.). 075/252-1311 (fax). 13 rooms. In-room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, spa, no-smoking rooms. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: 44,000 Yen.

Contributors: Alexander Basek, Lindsay Bennett, Jennifer D’Anastasio, Marcia Gagliardi, JoAnn Greco, Alex Wijeratna

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