Mandarin Oriental, New York
As sumptuous and plush as the Four Seasons (a few blocks away) is slick and modern, the popular MO occupies the 35th through the 54th floors of the Time Warner Center at the southwest corner of Central Park. The hotel is accessed via a special elevator in an entryway decorated with a giant, fiery-looking Dale Chihuly sculpture. Of the 248 rooms, many of them are on the small side, and some have views that are compromised by neighboring high-rises. Still, all are furnished with opulent Asian-inspired details, including silk bedspreads and pillows in rich colors of scarlet and gold, Japanese brush paintings, and in some suites, cushy Oriental rugs. The 14,500-square-foot spa (which includes a glassed-in 75-foot-long pool and Espa treatments like ayurvedic scalp stimulation and Thai yoga massage) is quite possibly the city's best.
Tip: Although the in-house restaurant, Asiate, serves lovely French-Asian fusion cuisine, a meal at Thomas Keller's Per Se (just an elevator ride away in the Time Warner Center) is worth maxing out your credit cards for.
Room to Book: Premier Central Park View Rooms, on floors 43 and above, have unimpeded park vistas (which makes them feel much bigger than their 425 square feet).
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.