In a city known for stellar cooking, Lucier’s attentive staff and impressive food takes the Portland dining experience to new heights. Although the cuisine is high-quality, it doesn’t always seem cohesive or in keeping with any one theme. The carpaccio of striped bass with foie gras is unusual and surprisingly good, as is the Muscovy duck breast served with juniper ice cream and carrot battonets. Be sure to sample the cheese cart, full of local and imported delights. While feasting on the exquisite food, guests are treated to divine views of the Willamette River. 1910 SW River Dr., Downtown Portland. 503/222.7300. AE, D, DC, MC, V. No lunch. Median entrée price: $35.
Having paid his dues in the tiny kitchen of Le Temps au Temps near the Bastille, young Lyonnais chef Sylvain Sendra is now happily ensconced in the spacious former premises of the noted Chez Toutoune. His once-faded surroundings have been revitalized: taupe walls, a long table d’hôtes, and a bar for solo meals or tapas-style snacks are all new. Sendra’s cooking, meanwhile, is as inspired as ever. Highlights of the menu include green asparagus with foie gras sauce and morsels of dried tuna, duck breast with beet and raspberry, and a deconstructed lemon tart with a touch of celery. Not everything works perfectly, but €32 for three courses seems a reasonable price to pay for this level of creativity and comfort. 5 rue de Pontoise, 5th., Quartier Latin. 01-46-33-60-11. Reservations essential. Closed Sun. & Mon. MC, V. Median entrée price: €32 for a 3-course prix fixe.
Waterbar, San Francisco.
As soon as you enter Waterbar, you’ll know exactly what’s on the menu. The 200-seat dining room is dominated by sky-high aquariums filled with candidates—or at least cousins of candidates (the kitchen has its own aquariums)—for your dinner plate. Every fin and shell is sustainably-sourced, so there’s no reason to feel guilty about sitting down to a plate of poached petrale sole, wood oven-roasted striped bass, or seared haddock. Waterbar, like its next-door neighbor Epic Roasthouse, is part of the steadily expanding empire of high-energy architect/restaurateur Pat Kuleto. Chef Parke Ulrich, who spent a decade at the city’s celebrated seafood palace Farallon, serves the catch raw, cured, and cooked in dozens of ways, while nationally acclaimed pastry chef Emily Luchetti handles the sweet end of the menu. If you want to experience this watery world but not pay $50 for a whole lobster, grab a seat at the bar, where you can snack off the bar menu and take in the view of the bay. 399 Embarcadero, Embarcadero. 415/284-9922. AE, D, DC MC, V. Median entrée price: $34.
Baltimore Pho, Baltimore.
Tucked into an up-and-coming West Baltimore neighborhood, Baltimore Pho (pronounced "fuh") is an unlikely hit. With red and black vinyl chairs, cloth-wrapped lanterns, pressed tin ceiling tiles and white linen tablecloths, the decor is sharp and funky. Meals start with puffy white prawn chips that crackle and pop when you dip them in a side of fish sauce. Ask for the house specialty, Baltimore Pho, and get it "Hollins Market style" – with less thin noodles and more fresh-tasting vegetables. The best way to round out a meal is with two scoops of glorious fried ice cream. It’s a sweet finish to a solid meal in the city’s newest upscale Asian spot. 1114 Hollins St., Washington Village. 410/752-4746. V, MC, D, AE. Closed Sun. Median entrée price: $16.
Bringing five-star luxury to Guangzhou’s emerging Pearl River New City, the Ritz-Carlton Guangzhou features posh rooms with marble baths, a smattering of international restaurants and bars, and a swank spa. In addition to its hundreds of standard guest rooms, the Ritz offers 35 suites and 58 club-level rooms — all of which feature featherbeds draped with gentle Egyptian cotton linens. After a day of exploring the city, rest your tender soles at the spa, which pampers guests with treatments such as aqua therapy beds and a wet lounge with a sauna. Pros: In-house Terra restaurant offers unique cuisine; Churchill Bar offers fine cognacs and cigars. Cons: During the seasonal Canton Fairs during April and October, the city’s hotel occupancy is heavily impacted; booking early is paramount. 3 Xing An Road, Pearl River New City, Guangzhou, China. 20/3813-6888 (ph.). 20/3813-6666 (fax). www.ritzcarlton.com. In room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Wi-Fi. In hotel: 4 restaurants, room service, 2 bars, pool, gym, spa, concierge, executive floor, public Wi-Fi. 351 rooms, 35 suites. AE, V, MC, DC. Rooms start at RMB 1,200 (approximately $176 USD).
Relais Mahana, French Polynesia.
The swankiest resort on Huahine debuted a new set of beach bungalows in late 2007. Each one is kitted out with king-sized beds, daybeds, and lots of huge cushions make them perfect for lounging and relaxation, or guests can also sit outside on a small terrace. Other options include special Lagoon-view bungalows (you have to walk down a slight incline to get to the beach), and garden rooms that interconnect, which are ideal for families. The large beachfront restaurant, Le Te Nahe, is popular with nonguests and features a Polynesian buffet and dance show (5,804 CFP per person) every Saturday night. Free kayaks and snorkel gear are available for anyone who would like to use them. Pros: lovely beachfront accommodations; friendly staff. Cons: The older beachfront bungalows are perched on a rocky rise. Parea, BP 30, Fare, 98731. 60–60—40. www.relaismahana.com. 22 bungalows, 10 rooms. In-room: a/c (some), safe, refrigerator, Internet. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, pool, gym, beachfront, diving, water sports, bicycles, no elevator, laundry service, concierge, executive floor, public Internet, airport shuttle, parking (no fee). AE, MC, V. Rooms start at: 21,900 CFP (approximately $287 USD).