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Phoenix Rising

The restaurant, Elements, is a magnet for everybody who wears black in the desert. The staff can't mix the martinis fast enough, and they can't turn over the tables fast enough. You'll find American food with an Asian spin: pot stickers, glazed fish, jasmine rice, Korean barbecue sauce. The view is sensational, and the young crowd is quite a change for Phoenix.

The Sanctuary isn't flawless. It has the usual boutique-hotel blind spots for service, the kitchen hasn't quite caught its stride, and in those new spa casitas, the views can be disappointing, the noise from the pool equipment intrusive. Still, half the battle of being on vacation is feeling you've landed in the right place, and if you're here, you've done that.

The Phoenician Let your mind wander back to the eighties, to the Reagan china, to the pouf dress, to big money that never stopped flowing.

And God created the Phoenician. Wasn't it fabulous?

There's still plenty of marble after last year's major redecoration, but the lobby and rooms have taken on a different kind of glamour. What impresses you now is the glowing bronze fabric and leather-topped furniture—a hyper-luxury look that recalls the great French decorator Jean-Michel Frank. Even the glitzy crystal chandeliers have been replaced with much more poetic Venetian glass, though word is that the old crystal fixtures—the bubbles in this champagne, some insist—may be brought back.

My favorite thing about the Phoenician is that the 581 standard guest rooms are huge and virtually identical, so you never get a bad one; you simply get the view you pay for. (They're surprisingly quietly decorated, too.) I also like that every square inch of the place is driven by service; if you so much as look in the direction of the spa, somebody offers to take you there.

The Centre for Well-Being, the first spa in Phoenix that really thought big, keeps changing and growing in keeping with its time-tested style of Pampering the Girls. The nine pools, especially the oval one surrounded by Napoleon-yellow cabanas, are still the most dazzling in town. Wear your pool jewelry. Wear all of it. The Phoenician experience reaches its dizzying peak at Mary Elaine's, where there's a new chef, Bradford Thompson. This is the Event Restaurant to end them all, still tossing salads tableside and setting things aflame and serving truffle degustation menus to women in red sequins and men who cap the night with a $600 shot of Cognac.


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