"Finally, a hotel for grownups" is how an observer of the Miami hotel scene described the opening of the Mandarin Oriental last November in a city better known for boutique hotels jammed chic to jowl on South Beach. In contrast, the Mandarin is all about space. Its location, on Brickell Key, an island linked by a bridge to the business district, affords expansive views of Biscayne Bay. Inside, there are soaring public spaces and sizable rooms.
The design has made the hotel a conversation piece. The parent company's Asian influence is visible in Japanese carpet patterns of birds in flight, door panels of laminated rice paper, framed Chinese emperors' silk robes. At the same time, there's a Latin kick of primary colors—marigold hallways, blue South American granite reception desk, bright green, red, yellow, and orange lobbychairs. And nothing quite equals the dramatic two-story-high floor-to-ceiling windows with bay views in the lobby.
Upstairs, the furniture and colors are more subdued—bamboo hardwood floors (which, unfortunately, are already taking a beating), off-white contemporary couches. The best suites are the 21 series Biscayne suites: Each is two rooms on the corner, totaling 960 square feet, with terraces and wraparound views (at $3,000, you pay dearly for that view). Or you can spring for the 2,365-square-foot Presidential Suite ($4,000), complete with its own screening/media room, Frank Gehry basket-weave chairs, and a kitchen stocked with Italian appliances (purchased for the suite's debut guest, Luciano Pavarotti, who wanted to cook while in residence).
Other guests will undoubtedly opt for the casual outdoor dining of Café Sambal, offering wok preparations such as Singapore chili crab and Maine lobster with yellow sauce ($92). At Azul, the signature restaurant and domain of local rising star chef Michelle Bernstein, the menu has equal parts excellent and mediocre dishes ($98).
The spa may be the best in town, a soothing and sophisticated mix of Ayurvedic and Balinese treatments (sea-salt exfoliations, synchronized massage, rebalancing facials). Spa, $120-$290 per hour; rooms, $475-$4,000. 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, FL 33131; 866-888-6780; www.mandarinoriental.com.