Simon Restaurant & Lounge, Las Vegas.
Chef Kerry Simon has created a stylish yet somewhat whimsical restaurant in one of the trendiest hotels in Las Vegas. His menu is chock-full of traditional fare with some creative twists, such as the “crispy, creamy rock shrimp”—a favorite appetizer—which is lightly fried, tossed in sweet chili aïoli, and served on a bed of apple-and-celery slaw. Seekers of comfort food will enjoy the tasty meatloaf cooked with beer. A giant bowl of freshly-spun cotton candy is just one of many dessert offerings. The bright and airy restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the adjacent swimming pool. Palms Place Hotel & Spa, 4381 W. Flamingo Rd., West Side. 702/944-3292. www.simonatpalmsplace.com. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $29.
VOICE Restaurant and Lounge, Houston.
Inside the hushed and stately surroundings of VOICE, the new restaurant at the Hotel ICON, you’ll find hotel guests and local foodies alike. Sink into the dove-grey leather armchairs and enjoy un-fussy but inspired dishes like venison with caramelized apples and sour cherry sauce, or Alaskan halibut with fennel and truffle emulsion. The sweet summer corn risotto is a must (if it’s on the menu that night) and the mushroom soup “cappuccino” is addictive. Before or after dinner, park yourself at the octagonal bar for signature drinks and views of the good-looking crowd.Hotel ICON, 220 Main St., Downtown. 832/667-4470. Closed Sun. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $25.
Fyve Restaurant Lounge, Arlington.
This formerly staid dining room in the Ritz-Carlton got a modern makeover to match the inventive cuisine stylings of new chef Amy Brandwein, who trained under Washington legend Roberto Donna. Warm tones of red and orange dominate the décor, accentuating the sensuality of the Italian-inspired menu without overwhelming the hotel’s conservative clientele. Standout dishes include the grilled octopus salad studded with sun-dried tomatoes and cubes of Yukon Gold potato, and a lemon-roasted chicken that leaves a sweet kiss of citrus on your palate. “Amy’s Purse,” a fragrant bundle of cod in a tomato-cilantro broth served encased in cellophane, is another frequent favorite. Breakfast (including made-to-order omelets) and lunch are also served. 1250 S. Hayes Street, Pentagon City. 703/412-2760. www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/PentagonCity/Dining/THEGRILL/Default.htm. AE, D, MC, V. Median entrée price: $26.
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Matsugen, New York City.
Situated in the former space of the upscale Chinese restaurant, 66, Matsugen is Jean-Georges’ latest venture, offering authentic Japanese cuisine. The contemporary design, long communal dining table, and fish tank filled with unusual crustaceans is essentially the same from the restaurant’s former incarnation, but the menu has a new life. Classic Japanese dishes are offered, such as sushi, sashimi, Wagyu beef and shabu-shabu, where diners try their own hand at cooking lobster and pork loin in a pot of boiling water at their table. The real stars here, however, are the more than dozen takes on soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour—served hot, chilled, and with additions such as tofu, duck, yams and prawns. The extensive sake menu makes for a nice accompaniment to the meal. If you’re not in the mood to sit in the main dining room, the large bar area in the front of the restaurant has comfortable chairs and is ideal for lingering. 241 Church St., Tribeca. 212/952-0202. MC, V, DC, D. Median entrée price: $20.
The urbane, 1930s décor makes this South End Spanish restaurant feel high-class, but the tapas plates and easy-to-share raciones (entrées) make dining here an entirely casual experience. A selection of traditional tapas, such as blistered padron peppers and sizzling shrimp in garlic and oil, when coupled with entrées like paella, or the daily roasted whole fish, can easily fill up two people. Adventurous diners might go for the whole roasted suckling pig head instead. Look for a seat on the couches in the front lounge for a more social dining experience, but try to avoid the high top tables in the back where both light and service are at a minimum.700 Harrison Ave., South End. 617/266-0905. www.estragontapas.com. No lunch. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $24.
Costa d’Este Beach Resort, Florida.
Vero Beach, a beach community popular with the preppy set, just got a blast of fresh air. This 94-room Latin-influenced hotel, owned by singer/producer couple Gloria and Emilio Estefan, opened in late June 2008 and bears little resemblance to its previous incarnation as the Palm Court. The Estefans added new design and lively ambience. Guest rooms sport a sleek look, with custom-made furniture, marble floors, and teak backlit headboards. You’ll feel like you’re in a stateroom on a modern yacht with broad ocean views. Spa-like bathrooms have marble floors and countertops, opaque glass doors, rain shower heads, and a unique porthole window to the room. The hotel’s restaurant, Oriente, named for Cuba’s Oriente region, has already become a hit with locals who come for the Cuban cuisine inspired by Latin American, Creole, and Spanish traditions. Pros: tanning butlers on hand to spray on sunscreen; great location on the beach near shops and restaurants; bi-level spa. Con: marble floors in guest rooms can be cold on bare feet. 3244 Ocean Dr., Vero Beach, 32963: 772/562-9919. www.costadeste.com. 90 rooms, 4 suites. In-room: safe, DVD, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 1 restaurant, room service, bar, gym, spa, laundry service, concierge, Wi-Fi, parking (fee), no-smoking rooms. AE. MC, VC. Rooms start at $249.
Contributors: Jay Jones, Tim Moloney, Erin Byers Murray, Elana Schor, Mary Thurwachter, Shivani Vora
Photo Credit: Simon Restaurant and Lounge