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Traveling Gourmet: Great Hotel Restaurants

by Rich Rubin
Kachina Cantina- Maven Hotel Restaurant

Many are drawing a local clientele beyond their hotel guests, a testament to the quality of their food.

Rich Rubin

I’ve been traveling and writing about it for many wonderful years. Often, after a long flight, or a day of sightseeing, all I wanted to do was eat at my hotel restaurant and make plans for exploring the city I was visiting. Unfortunately, many hotel dining options in the past left a lot to be desired. Happily, that’s all changed, and some of the best restaurants I’ve eaten in recently have been located in hotels. Many are drawing a local clientele beyond their hotel guests, a testament to the quality of their food. Of course, there are some long-standing fine restaurants in hotels, but the vast majority are either relatively new, or newly overhauled. Here, are some of my favorite spots that make you say “well, I think I’ll eat at the hotel tonight.”.

FOODBAR
The Thief, Oslo, Norway
Located in one of Oslo’s most chic designer hotels, Foodbar, like The Thief itself, shows just how far this lovely city has come in terms of hospitality offerings. With its abundance of seafood and local produce, and British chef David Taylor’s
European approach, it’s a must-do. The menu is divided into three sections: small plates, large plates, and sweet plates, so
you can craft a meal in various ways. Start, perhaps, with scallops served with brown butter, apple, cauliflower, and truffles.
For a large plate, try slow-cooked beef with Lyonnaise style potatoes, beef tartare, and horseradish toast, or celebrate Norway’s seafaring cuisine with roasted monkfish tail, nicely presented with caramelized fennel, chorizo, and bouillabaisse. A pear and lime custard tart with pear sorbet is delightfully light, while a chocolate and cherry torte is beautifully rich. Like the hotel itself, Foodbar is clean-lined and comfortable, with a gracious staff and a pleasantly urban feel. The same company has just opened a new hotel, Amerikalinjen, and I can’t wait to see it (yes, that’s a hint to my Norwegian friends!). Meanwhile, The Thief, and the Foodbar, have one thing in common: they do it right. Landgangen 1, Oslo, Norway. Tel: +47-24 00 40 00. www.thethief.com/en/eat-drink/foodbar

KACHINA CANTINA
The Maven Hotel, Denver Colorado
The large open space, brightened by murals and rows of hanging lights and hopping with people, puts you in the mood for joy. That mood will probably be increased by a traditional, or their cucumber/jalapeño, margarita. Then, when you taste chef Denis Zvekic’s cuisine, where everything is made from scratch, you’re likely feel as if you’re in heaven. Chicken tortilla soup is rich and spicy (hint: squeeze the lime wedge into it and taste the flavors explode). Seared Salmon Veracruz is crispy outside and moist inside, with a tangy tomato/olive/caper relish. Crispy cauliflower and Brussels sprouts come with a romesco that adds smoothness and spice for a many-layered vegetarian delight. On the other end of the spectrum, green chile soup with pork is always a crowd-pleaser. With its unique setting in the revitalized “Dairy Block,” The Maven has many eateries at its doorstep, but Kachina (while not the “hotel restaurant” in terms of ownership) is entered through the hotel’s lobby, and those lucky enough to be staying at the Maven have it as their “home” restaurant for room service. I mention to Zvekic that the place certainly seems to be popular. He smiles, noting modestly, “We thrive on the buzz.” 1890
Wazee St., Denver CO. Tel: 720-460-2728. www.kachinadenver.com

Cinder House, Four Seasons St. Louis Hotel Restaurant

Cinder House
Photo: Courtesy of Four Seasons St. Louis

CINDER HOUSE
Four Seasons, St. Louis Missouri
James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft has fashioned a restaurant for St. Louis’ Four Seasons that’s as unusual as it is inspiring. The menu spans the globe with a concentration on South America cuisine and a fondness for the wood-burning
hearth. The first thing you notice in the warm-toned room is the view, as downtown St. Louis spreads out before your amazed eyes. The food outshines the view (which takes some doing). Moqueca seafood stew is hearty and satisfying, filled
with snapper, prawns, lobster, and octopus in a creamy coconut milk broth. Feijoada includes beef, pork, black beans, rice, and kale. You can also go totally local with Missouri trout. One recent addition: the Sunday Asado, which Cinder House chef
Michael Fricker has created in consultation with chefs in Argentina and Brazil. This “backyard barbecue” (in Craft’s words)
features meats from smoked turkey or prime rib to porchetta and leg of lamb, supplemented by such appealing offerings as ceviche, roasted local vegetables, and a variety of salads, fruits, and egg dishes. Whether you do the Asado or a full, spectacular dinner, don’t miss this place. 999 N. 2nd St., St. Louis MO. Tel: 314-881-5759. www.cinderhousestl.com

SACHER CAFÉ
Sacher Hotel, Vienna, Austria
Here’s a case where a great hotel dining spot has been attracting loyal fans for decades. While there are several eateries within the legendary Sacher Hotel, I love the café, which combines tradition and modernity beautifully. You can have a quintessential Vienna coffeehouse experience, stopping in for a coffee and sweet, or have a full meal. The emphasis here is on Viennese cookery, with some other winning additions. Try a goose liver tart or a platter of pickled and smoked fish. Experience such traditional specialties as wienerschnitzel or tafelspitz (boiled beef with vegetables and an apple/horseradish sauce), or go with a quiche, served with arugula, apples, and walnuts. For dessert you might have something like rich, smooth panna cotta, but you’re at the Sacher, so I’m going to insist that you get their original Sachertorte, the chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam that’s one of the best desserts on earth (I predict you’ll ask for
one to take a friend as a souvenir). It must be a hit, as it’s been served since its debut at the Sacher almost two hundred years ago! Philharmonikerstrasse 4, Vienna Austria. Tel: +43-1 51 456 1053. www.sacher.com

Fess Parker Wine Country Inn Restaurant

Double Cut Berkshire Pork Chop at Bear and Star
Photo: Courtesy of Bear and Star

THE BEAR AND STAR
Fess Parker Wine Country Inn,
Los Olivos, California
The Bear and Star is the restaurant of lovely Fess Parker Wine Country Inn and Spa in Southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Service is lovely, both relaxed and attentive, and you can eat in the comfy dining room or choose an outdoor table overlooking the streets of this sleepy town. If the produce tastes totally fresh, that’s because they grow it themselves, on a farm not far from the hotel. Wagyu beef (in steaks, burgers, and meatloaf) comes from the Parker family ranch, so you know it’s going to be the best. Definitely try their cornbread, with a butter/brown sugar/pepper sauce glaze for
that perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Speaking of sweet, a dessert like their rustic fruit cobbler is a perfect meal-capper. Of course, you’ll want to wash it all down with a Pinot Noir or Syrah from Fess Parker’s own winery. 2860 Grand Ave, Los Olivos CA. Tel: 805-686-1359. www.thebearandstar.com

Hotel Max Restaurant Seattle

Photo: Courtesy Miller’s Guild

MILLER’S GUILD
Hotel Max, Seattle, Washington
Take an upscale spot like Seattle’s Hotel Max, toss in a James Beard award-winning chef like Jason Wilson, and the result is pure pleasure, in other words, Miller’s Guild. With its open-fire grilling and light, creative touch, it’s a winner in Seattle’s
burgeoning Belltown district. Have a seat among the plant life and the stacks of logs. You’ll soon see why the logs are there, as you make a selection from the “Inferno Live Fire Grill,” with offerings ranging from rib chops to a variety of steaks. If you’re looking for other types of inventive cookery, try such entrees as tagliatelle carbonara or (a favorite of vegetarians) the cauliflower ravioli, rich with gruyere cheese, carrot cream, and olive pesto, which results in a startlingly full palette of flavor. Halibut comes with a sesame/yuzu sauce and harissa butter, while the cheddar grits and grilled bourbon apple accompanying the pork belly take the familiar to a new level. Comfort meets creativity, from the food to the atmosphere. It’s a great combination. 612 Stewart St., Seattle WA. Tel: 206-443-3663. www.millersguild.com

Kimpton Mason and Rook Hotel Restaurant

Cocktails at Radiator

RADIATOR
Kimpton Mason & Rook,
Washington, D.C.
I’ve loved this spot since the day it opened. Offering a variety of creative cocktails and dishes from small plates to full meals. Chef Jonathan Dearden presents an ever-changing menu with a deftly creative touch. Brussels sprouts come with dried peaches and honey-yuzu yogurt for a surprising combination. Lobster tagliatelle is as rich and delicious as you could possibly hope. Rockfish is served with black rice and a turnip orange slaw, and is one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever tasted. Short ribs with polenta are another winner, as is the roasted Amish chicken, served with a tasty kohlrabi gratin (that’s one
of my favorite uses of this underappreciated vegetable). If you want a complete splurge that you know you should feel guilty, I think you need to do Jonathan’s bacon fat fries— just the very name of the dish indicates what makes it so amazing. Dessert offerings include Boston cream-filled donut holes and a rich, dark “death by chocolate,” but my favorite is the “adult milkshake,” made with Guinness ice cream, Patron XO café, espresso, and cocoa nibs. 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington DC. Tel: 202-742-3150. www.radiatordc.com

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