Dining In

At these properties, there’s no need to go off-site for fabulous food

The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil

 

Tapping the flavors of Napa Valley:
The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil

Time was when hot dining spots were solely the domain of big cities and downtown hotels. But today, extraordinary restaurants presided over by talented chefs are as likely to be found in resort destinations as they are in traditional metropolitan haunts. In fact, nearly a third of the properties featured in Zagat’s top 100 hotel restaurants (www.zagat.com; released in 2006) are in resort areas, most at properties that accommodate meetings and incentives.

Following are the details of these group-appropriate resorts and their signature eateries.

ARIZONA
Marquesa
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
(480) 585-4848; www.fairmont.com

Braised wild boar and cocoa-dusted foie gras are just two of the French, Italian and Spanish Riviera-influenced offerings at Marquesa. Zagat’s reviewers described this restaurant as a “foodie’s delight,” citing its “imaginative appetizers,” “exotic” entrees and “fabulous desserts.” Marquesa earned its 16th consecutive 2007 AAA Five Diamond award this year. A private dining room seats 20. Buyouts for up to 86 can be arranged.

Mary Elaine’s
The Phoenician, Scottsdale
(800) 888-8234; www.thephoenician.com

Zagat’s reviewers cited the landmark Mary Elaine’s for its “heavenly views, extraordinary wine list, unparalleled service and exquisite New French fare.” The star attraction is chef Bradford Thompson, winner of the 2006 James Beard Foundation Award (the Oscars of the American culinary industry) for best chef, Southwest. If that was not enough, Mary Elaine’s was a 2007 AAA Five Diamond winner. The eatery has three private rooms seating 20, 40 and 80, respectively. The restaurant can be bought out for larger groups (up to 175 people).

T. Cook’s
Royal Palms Resort and Spa, Phoenix
(866) 579-3636; www.royalpalmshotel.com

Zagat’s respondents said, “It’s impossible to overlook chef Gregory Casale’s marvelous Mediterranean creations and the professional staff.” But don’t bring the entire office -- this restaurant is strictly for small groups: A maximum of 14 can be accommodated.

CALIFORNIA

El Bizcocho
Rancho Bernardo Inn
Rancho Bernardo
(858) 675-8550; www.ranchobernardoinn.com

Rising culinary star Gavin Kayson presides over the kitchen of this French eatery, recently honored as a “best of the best” by San Diego Magazine. El Bizcocho offers daily tasting menus; groups of up to 10 people are accommodated within the main restaurant; a private room seats 30.

Marinus
Bernardus Lodge, Carmel
(888) 648-9463; www.bernardus.com

This restaurant puts “Carmel Valley on the culinary map,” say admiring Zagat’s reviewers. Among chef Cal Stamenov’s inspired offerings are a nightly tasting menu and dishes such as red abalone with Jerusalem artichoke puree. Wines produced at Bernardus’ own winery are the stars of Marinus’ extensive wine list.

Rancho Valencia
Rancho Valencia Resort
Rancho Santa Fe
(858) 759-6216; www.ranchovalencia.com

Expect an “always innovative menu offering Californian cuisine with European and Asian-fusion flair.” Groups of up to 20 are hosted in a private dining room.

Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil
Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
(707) 963-1211; www.aubergedusoleil.com

This elegant eatery is the only resort restaurant in the United States to have been awarded a Michelin star. The cuisine reflects regional and seasonal Napa Valley foods, accented with Mediterranean flavor, and the extensive wine list features Napa varietals. Groups of up to 100 are accommodated.

Sierra Mar
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
(831) 667-2800; www.postranchinn.com

This restaurant’s “God’s-eye view of the Pacific Ocean; irresistible, internationally inflected Californian cuisine and 4,000-label wine list allowing for wonderful pairings” made Sierra Mar a winner with Zagat’s reviewers.

Studio
Montage Resort & Spa, Laguna Beach
(949) 715-6420; www.montagelagunabeach.com

Chef James Boyce’s highly innovative California/New French cuisine is the star at Studio, while the “endless wine list” and “polished service” are chief standouts. Up to 12 are hosted at Studio’s Chef’s Table; a private dining room seats up to 24.

Vivace
Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Carlsbad
(760) 603-3773; www.fourseasons.com/aviara

Here, say Zagat’s reviewers, the “wine list is the only thing better than the view.” Chef Bruce Logue’s menu is a reinterpretation of regional Italian cooking. A private dining room accommodates 14.

FLORIDA

Dining Room at Little Palm Key
Little Palm Island Resort
Little Torch Key
(800) 3-GET-LOST; www.littlepalmisland.com 

The “unparalleled staff serves exceptional food amid a gorgeous, magical setting,” according to Zagat’s reviewers. The restaurant is the only dining establishment on tiny Little Torch Key; groups of up to 35 can be accommodated.

Four Seasons - The Restaurant
Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach
(561) 582-2800; www.fourseasons.com/palmbeach

A hotel restaurant to “judge others by,” this “pearl perched oceanside in Palm Beach beckons with genius-chef Hubert Des Marais’ outstanding Floribbean fare” -- a hybrid of Caribbean and local cuisines. The eatery is a 12-time consecutive recipient, including 2007, of the AAA Five Diamond Restaurant Award. Groups of up to 15 are accommodated.

Victoria & Albert’s
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Lake Buena Vista
(407) 934-3463; www.disneymeetings.com

“Ecstatic epicures feel like well-fed royalty here,” according to Zagat’s reviewers. Groups of 10 can enjoy the Chef’s Table, featuring a menu with as many as 13 courses. This year, this elegant dining emporium earned a seventh consecutive AAA Five Diamond Restaurant Award. A private dining room holds 21; buyouts for up to 80 can be arranged.

HAWAII

Hoku’s
Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu
(808) 739-8888; www.kahalaresort.com

This restaurant is a “stunning choice,” according to reviewers, who liked “the creative, phenomenal fare.” The cuisine is a fusion of Hawaiian, Asian and European influences used in dishes such as pancetta-crusted onaga (a local fish). Groups of 12 are accommodated.

La Mer/Orchids
Halekulani Hotel, Honolulu
(800) 367-2343; www.halekulani.com

This beachfront property houses two restaurants on Zagat’s list. At the more upscale, AAA Five Diamond-rated Le Mer, “each bite of chef Yves Garnier’s delectable New French cuisine with an island touch is a taste of heaven.” Two private rooms seat 16 and 22, respectively.

Orchids was cited by Zagat for its “views, relaxed American cuisine and fantastic Sunday brunch.” Groups of 30 are accommodated.

MASSACHUSETTS

Twenty-Eight Atlantic
Wequassett Inn Resort and Golf Club
Chatham
(800) 225-7125; www.wequassett.com

Saffron-infused Ipswich clam chowder and braised lamb shank with black currants and creamy pumpkin polenta are just a sampling of the creations by Twenty-Eight Atlantic’s chef Bill Brodsky. Zagat’s reviewers recommended this Cape Cod resort restaurant for its fresh seafood and “New American offerings that are not only fantastic but wonderfully presented.” A private room holds 45; the restaurant allows buyouts for up to 120 diners.

NEVADA

Alex/SW Steakhouse
Wynn Las Vegas
(702) 770-7800; www.wynnlasvegas.com

In a city of great restaurants, Wynn can take credit for two winners. At Alex, chef Alex Stratta serves up “extraordinarily conceived” French-Mediterranean meals served on “gorgeous china.” A private dining room accommodates 22.

SW Steakhouse stands out for “steak you can cut with a fork.” A private dining room seats 35.

Le Cirque/Michael Mina/Picasso/
Prime Steakhouse
Bellagio, Las Vegas
(702) 693-7111;
www.bellagio.com

Bellagio is the hands-down winner in the resort fine-dining stakes, housing four restaurants on Zagat’s top 100 hotel restaurants list. Reviewers called Le Cirque “an elegant temple of gastronomy,” praising the New French cuisine and “delectable desserts.” Groups of 15 are welcome.

Michael Mina’s eponymous Vegas restaurant was lauded for its “huge and delicious lobster pot pie” and “excellent wine list.” Groups of up to 65 are hosted.

At Picasso, standouts are “Chef Julian Serrano’s exquisite Spanish-inflected New French dishes, gorgeous flowers and gracious staff.” Groups of 30 are hosted.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime Steakhouse serves “heaven on a plate (and in a glass), marvelous meat and martini-centric drinks.” Groups of 20 are accommodated.

Fleur de Lys
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
Las Vegas
(702) 632-7447; www.mandalaybay.com

Chef-owner Hubert Keller “nourishes all the senses” at “this dreamy jewel box with out-of-this-world New French fare.” Recommended are the three-, four- or five-course prix fixe menus. Groups of 30 are accommodated.

Medici Cafe and Terrace
Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas
Henderson
(702) 567-4700; www.ritzcarlton.com

New American cuisine is on offer amid “elegant, silk-and-brocade environs.” Among the culinary offerings here are salmon with ricotta gnocchi and soft parsley crust, pan-seared diver scallops with langoustine ravioli, and the daily six-course seasonal tasting menu. Groups of up to 20 are accommodated.