Momofuku Ko, New York City.
A seasonal tasting menu full of clever combinations and esoteric ingredients explains the deafening buzz for James Beard award-winning chef David Chang’s latest venture. Ko’s small, intimate space is sparsely furnished with a counter of blond wood and only a dozen stools. Diners get to see Ko’s chefs in action as they prepare all manner of inventive dishes: they garnish soft-boiled eggs and caviar with potato chips, grate foie gras over lychee, and set cereal milk panna cotta on avocado-painted plates. Reservations can only be made online, no more than seven days ahead, and are extremely difficult to get. Log on at 10 a.m. (credit card number needed just to get in the system) when new reservations are available and keep hitting reload. 163 First Ave., East Village. 212/228-0031 and 212/475-7899. www.momofuku.com. Reservations required. AE, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $100 for an 8-course prix fixe.
Well before he opened this fine dining shrine to the sea, Chef Laurent Gras began tempting diners by logging menu ideas onto his blog. The results of his experiments can be found on L20’s four-course prix fixe menu and 12-course tasting menu, in which hard-to-find fish varieties—such as shimaaji, Japanese mackerel, or kinmedai, fatty tuna—are smoked, cured, seared, or foamed. Guests also have the opportunity to taste delicacies such as wagyu beef imported from Miyazaki, Japan, at an additional cost. Deciphering the menu may take some assistance, but the serene, earth-toned dining room and professional staff help soothe any worries. Tradition, in the form of delicate soufflés and macaroons, return at the end of the meal for a sweet sendoff. 2300 N. Lincoln Park W., Lincoln Park. 773/868-0002. www.l2orestaurant.com. Reservations essential. Closed Tues. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: $110 for a 4-course prix fixe.
La Vinacoteca Torres, Barcelona.
Miguel Torres of the Torres wine dynasty has finally given Passeig Gràcia a respectable address for tapas and wine. Under the direction of Chef Manel Jiménez, this stylish addition to Barcelona’s great shopping and Moderniste architecture boulevard offers both a restaurant and a tapas bar with over 50 wines from Torres wineries around the world. The menu runs from selected Spanish olives to Ramón Peña canned seafood from the Rías de Galicia, to stick-to-your-ribs lentejas estofadas (stewed lentils) or diced chunks of Galician beef with peppers from Gernika. Pg. de Gràcia 78, Eixample. 93/272-6625. AE, DC, MC, V. Median entrée price: €18.
O Izakaya Lounge, San Francisco.
San Francisco has been hit by a mini-tsunami of izakaya spots, Japanese-style pubs where folks gather to drink and share small plates. O Izakaya delivers this tradition, with the addition of large flat-screen TVs, to ensure that no one misses an inning. The walls are covered with oversized baseball cards, and seating is a mix of booths and tall communal tables. The menu is a wild ride of noodles (soba, yam), skewers (pork belly, hamachi belly, chicken), tempura, dumplings, salads, raw and cooked fish, and even burgers. Sake aficionados will be pleased with the selection, plus there’s plenty of beer, shochu, and cocktail choices to ensure no one goes thirsty. 1625 Post St. in the Hotel Kabuki, Japantown. 415/614-5431. AE, D, DC, MC, V. No lunch weekdays. Median entrée price: $17.
Hotel Scribe, Paris.
A recent renovation by interior architect Jacques Grange has breathed new life into this historical property. The building has housed numerous illustrious tenants and events since it opened in 1861, and now each floor is themed to celebrate those occupants and moments, ranging from the aristocratic horse breeders’ Jockey Club to Salon Indien—where the Lumière brothers debuted the cinematograph (film camera) in 1895—to jazz icon Josephine Baker, who once lived at the property. Rooms are spacious and airy with rich fabrics and modern amenities like Jacuzzi baths and flat-screen TVs. New additions to the property include the upscale restaurant, Le Café Lumière, a spa run by the Lancôme Beauty Institute, and La Maison de Thé, an elegant tea room. Pros: Incredibly plush bedding; central, easily accessible location. Cons: Understaffed concierge; tiny fitness center. 1 rue Scribe, Paris, 75009. 1/44712424 (ph.).
www.sofitel.com. 200 rooms; 4 suites. In-room: DVD, hi-speed Internet (fee). In-hotel: Wi-Fi (fee), 2 restaurants, room service, spa, concierge. AE, MC, V. Rooms start at: €490.
St. Regis, Singapore.
The St. Regis, a new addition to a city chock-full of 5-star accommodation, offers high-quality service and an array of extravagant extras (e.g. guests can call on the Bentley car fleet or a Blackberry-toting, personal butler, available 24-hours a day). Vibrant colors, Czech crystal, and art from the likes of Botero, Chagall, and Picasso accent the airy public spaces, creating a lavish but lively look—formal but never stuffy. The rooms are also bright and plush, with thoughtfully arranged seating areas and spacious bathrooms with stand-alone tubs and flat-screen TVs. Request a room overlooking Tanglin Road for a view of a serene, green swatch of the city. The location is central, but quiet, on the edge of the Orchard Road hustle and bustle. Pros: decadent Sunday champagne brunch; first-rate spa facilities, personal butler service; Bentley car service. Cons: detached from areas such as The Historic District and Marina Bay. 29 Tanglin Rd., Orchard, Singapore 247911. 65 6506 6888 (ph.).65 6506 6708 (fax). http://www.starwoodhotels.com/stregis/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1533. 299 rooms. In-room : safe, kitchen (some), refrigerator, DVD, CD, TV, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 3 restaurants, room service (24-hour service) 2 bars, 1 tennis court (indoor),1 outdoor pool, gym, spa, laundry service, concierge, public Wi-Fi, airport shuttle (fee), parking (fee), no-smoking rooms, business center. AE, DC, MC, V. Rooms start at: SGD $480.
Contributors: Lisa Amand, Laura Dozier, Erica Duecy, Kate Leahy, George Semler, Sharon Silva