The Regent Bal Harbour, Florida.
Phenomenal designer shopping and super-luxe high-rise residences have long given Bal Harbour, Florida, its reputation as a glamorous vacation destination. And March 2008’s opening of The Regent Bal Harbour has given travelers added incentive to spend their South Florida vacations in this tony oceanfront neighborhood, just a 15-minute drive north of Miami Beach. The hotel’s contemporary, plush guest rooms are outfitted with mahogany floors; large terraces offering panoramic views of the water and city; bathrooms with 10-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows; and 42″ flat-screen televisions (plus a small TV incorporated into the bathroom mirror). Suites are furnished with fully-equipped kitchens with cook tops, microwave and convection ovens, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Spend your afternoons split between the outdoors—enjoying the pool and 750 feet of pristine beachfront—and the hotel’s lavish, on-site Guerlain Spa and fitness center. Pros: sprawling pool deck located directly on the beach; plush, on-site Guerlain Spa; free wireless Internet; beautiful contemporary art collection throughout the common areas. Cons: if you’re looking for a sizzling, sexy South Beach vibe, this tranquil hotel isn’t for you. 10295 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 33154. 305/455-5400 (ph.). 305/455-5399 (fax). www.regenthotels.com. 124 rooms, 63 suites. In-room: safe, kitchen, refrigerator, DVD, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, tennis courts, pools, gym, spa, beachfront, watersports, bicycles, laundry service, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), business center, no smoking rooms. AE, MC, V, D. Rooms start at: $750.
Elements Restaurant & Enoteca, California Wine Country.
The bright and airy Elements Restaurant, which is part bistro and part wine bar, blends Spanish and French flavors into an ever-changing menu that spans the Mediterranean. Chef Charles Weber, formerly of the tapas-style hotspot Zuzu, cooks up appetizer-sized dishes such as tuna carpaccio with niçoise garnishes, and Monterey calamari with Spanish chorizo broth and oregano. Also available are larger dishes such as grilled skirt steak with fresh horseradish and pomme purée. Another highlight: the cheese menu features sheep, goat, and cow options from all over the world. The wine list is eclectic, drawing on lesser-known masterpieces from California, Europe, South America, and Australia. Solo business travelers appreciate the eatery’s 15 counter seats, and locals regularly line up for outdoor tables on the sidewalk. 1400 Second St., Napa. 707/224-4518. www.elementsnapa.com. AE, MC, V. Median entrée price: $26
Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire, Dubai.
It was inevitable that Paris’ most enigmatic (and thrice Michelin-starred) mega chef Pierre Gagnaire would open a restaurant in decadent Dubai, where his artful creations dazzle well-heeled locals and visitors alike. Known for his use of glamorous ingredients (foie gras, truffles) alongside more modest ones (chicken), Gagnaire’s Dubai team goes all out to impress, with fascinating tastes and textures on every plate from the amuse bouche to the cheeses. While the experience passes by as if a dream, it’s not one easily forgotten—the pink chandeliers and the not-inconsequential bill leave diners a little woozy as they sleepwalk across the plush purple carpet into the night. InterContinental Dubai Festival City. 971/4701-1111. www.pierre-gagnaire.com. Reservations Essential. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: 320 AED.
Anisette Brasserie, Los Angeles.
Parisian-born chef Alain Giraud, famous for some of L.A.’s most elaborate tasting menus, now turns his attention to the energy of a casual brasserie. The soaring space is decked out with imported vintage floor tiles, antique mirrors and sconces—an authenticity reinforced by the waiters’ accents. A buzzing, eclectic crowd of tourists, expats, and nearby residents tuck into familiar brasserie favorites such as onion soup gratinée, platters of fruits de mer from the raw bar, duck confit, and daube, a braised beef cheek stew in a soulful red wine reduction. A classic zinc bar was also brought from France and the scene there looks like it might have been lifted from a brasserie on Boulevard Saint-Michel. For lunch, there are frisée salads and croque monsieur sandwiches. 225 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica. 310/395-3200. www.anisettebrasserie.com. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $26.
Lavo, Las Vegas.
With delightfully seasoned dishes, there’s no need for salt and pepper shakers here; in fact, there aren’t any. The creative before-dinner palate cleanser—a “deconstructed Bloody Mary” of spicy tomato sorbet, pureed celery, and vodka gelee—sets the tone. The dishes—bigger than appetizers but smaller than entrées—are meant to be shared and include delights such as charred octopus salad, steak frites, and the “Ultimate” pizza. (The toppings include lobster and truffles.) The Moroccan furnishings are designed to give guests the feel of an ancient public bathhouse, so the music—including trance and hip-hop—may seem out-of-place to those not intent on visiting the adjoining nightclub (of the same name) after dining. Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino, 3325 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Center Strip. 702/791-1800. www.lavolv.com. No lunch. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $36.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
The island’s newest resort opened its doors in September 2008. Like other luxurious resorts on Bora Bora, its location on an eastern motu provides guests with stunning views of Mt. Otemanu. This is also the island’s first resort with a club for teenagers, Teen Island, which has its own beach where teenagers can compete in outrigger canoe races. All of the 100 over-water bungalows, a handful of which have private plunge pools, can accommodate two adults and two children. There are also six two-bedroom villas and the ultimate holiday pad, the three-bedroom, four-bathroom villas, situated on the beach in private gardens. Pros: kids club; villas have private pools; great views. Cons: pricey; charge for airport transfers.Motu Tehota, B.P. 547, 98730. 60-31-30. www.fourseasons.com. 100 suites, 21 villas. In-room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Internet. In-hotel: 2 restaurants, room service, bars, 2 pools, gym, spa, beachfront, diving, watersports, no elevator, children’s programs (ages 3-17), laundry service, concierge, public Internet, airport shuttle (fee). AE, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at 97,500 CFP.
Contributors: Caroline Gladstone, Suzy Buckley, Lara Dunston, Roger Grody, Jay Jones, Matt Villano
Photo Credit: Courtesy Regent Hotels