Saturday, December 7, 2013
A Tour of Tokyo Hilton Hotel in Shinjuku, Dinner at Musashino Japanese Restaurant and Breakfast Buffet at Marble Lounge
The Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku is lovely. It's everything you'd expect of a four-star hotel, and more. Looks like in Japan, they do four-star with quality that would blow some five-star hotels elsewhere out of the water.
As many of you know, I'm always happiest when I'm in Japan. This is my 10th trip here (seems like a lot, but you really don't feel like going anywhere else after you've had a taste of Japan), and my sixth one to Tokyo. But because my last trip was in 2007, this Tokyo jaunt was much welcomed as a refreshing update.
I had wonderful travel buddies on this trip to Tokyo! Here are Dennis and Adrian (Superadrianme), and Irene (Moonberry). Check out their blogs too.
We had just arrived at Narita Airport. This is the first time I am taking the airport limousine express buses to the hotels (slightly over two hours). I normally take the N'EX to Shinjuku. But the advantage of these buses is they drop you off right at the hotel. If you have a lot of luggage, that might be a good idea.
I was pretty amazed that the ground staff (ushers and luggage handlers) would ritually bow to (the guests in) the buses as they arrived and departed. The Japanese have such incredible dedication to their tasks.
The Hilton is located in the Shinjuku Skyscraper district just westwards of Shinjuku station. It's walkable, but there are shuttle buses you can take.
Interestingly, I often stay in Nishi (west) Shinjuku as well, but never tried the Hilton until now. In fact, I realise this is probably my first Hilton hotel experience anywhere.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton Tokyo
The hotel has 812 rooms and suites. The Executive rooms have all been refurbished. I have to say it was really nice to see such big and spacious rooms in Tokyo! Most other hotels have nefariously tiny rooms that make it a challenge for you to even walk around in.
I also need to get a wide-angle lens to fully capture the size and breadth of hotel rooms! For this trip, I had newly gotten the Canon 5D Mark III (kindly loaned by Canon Singapore), and was just learning how to use it. It's a huge step up from my old 400D. So many new features! First few photos will not be great, I know. Anyway, I have indicated iPhone and official hotel photos where they appear.
Each room comes with the trademark shoji screens across the windows. I really like these. They lend a Japanese touch to the contemporary Western design. You can enjoy the view from the writing desk or the smart-looking easy chair. If you stay on the west side, you might see Mount Fuji too.
The beds are comfortable, softly coddling but with enough firmness for support. You can see through to the shower, but of course, there is a privacy screen. Oddly though, it's controlled from the outside, not inside. So make sure you trust whoever you share the room with!
Executive rooms now have the Japanese style deep bath tub. I love these!
iPhone 4S photoI don't know how the water naturally is or turns blue in the bath tub, but it's awesome!
There's a nice range of Peter Thomas Roth toiletries - I like the Body Wash with beads. Smells great.
But out there is an even more astonishing welcome ensemble. A pretty persimmon, luscious Kyoho grapes that taste like wine jelly, very well-made macarons, chocolates, and a bottle of prized Hakkaisan sake.
It's so nice to find real tea leaves instead of tea bags, for your in-room tea.
And for the turn-down service, they placed a small bottle of wine, and some exquisitely crafted candy in a box.
Well, it was a pity we only stayed a night here. We didn't get to see what the other rooms looked like, but here are some official photos.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton TokyoThe Junior Suite by night.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton TokyoThe City Suite by day.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton TokyoThe Executive Tower Suite in the evening.
Photo courtesy of the Hilton TokyoThe Executive Deluxe Suite - this has got to be top of the line.
Dinner was at Musashino, the Japanese fine-dining restaurant within the hotel. Most of the restaurants are conveniently located on the second floor.
Musashino is very traditional in its decor and cuisine. There are three private tatami rooms like this.
They also have rooms specially dedicated to teppanyaki, tempura and sushi. You can also have shabu-shabu or kaiseki, served by waitresses clad in kimonos.
We started the evening with some drinks.
They brought out some premium Hakkaisan sake.
We also had some umeshu.
But it was really the food that was outstanding. The chef prepared a special kaiseki menu for us to showcase the different strengths of the restaurant.
iPhone 4S photoOur starter of seasonal delicacies included sesame tofu, boiled potherb mustard with globe fish (fugu!) and skin, egg sponge cake and ginkgo nut, pond smelt, roast duck with cheese. And two thick cuts of otoro and chutoro so fresh and sweet. It was a dance of many flavours.
From the teppan, we had Prime Japanese sirloin steak with vegetables and garlic chips. The wagyu was from Iwate prefecture, and expertly seared to a medium rare perfection. You can almost see how translucent the marbling is.
A second helping of sashimi after we had the wonderful otoro in the starter. We could not say no to more.
Tempura of prawns, asparagus, pumpkin, Japanese ginger and shiitake mushroom. Notice how non-greasy it is, with nary an oil stain on the paper.
iPhone 4S photoAssorted Sushi - Semi fatty tuna (chutoro), flatfish (hirame), sea eel (anago), tuna and cucumber roll. There was a lovely bowl of clear soup to go with this. It had a beautiful smoky hint to it.
A light dessert of stewed pear in syrup, walnuts and raspberry rounded up the evening.
We adjourned to the Executive Lounge on the 37th floor. This is where they earlier did our personalised check-in. There's free wi-fi, access to computers, laptops and a printer, magazines, newspapers and DVDs. You can also get breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails here. But the real draw is the view.
The stunning Skyscraper district in all its night time glory.
On the eastern-facing side you can see the government buildings.
So many people still in their offices at night?
The western-facing side extends towards a more residential area, so there are less tall buildings.
This is the view from my room the next morning.
It was uncharacteristically foggy with a bit of rain. The autumn colours were not out in full force yet, despite it being so late in the year (early November).
Oh well. Breakfast!
Downstairs at the Marble Lounge (first photo above), you get food 24 hours a day including buffets. The breakfast has the usual favourites for both Western and Japanese palates.
Japanese side dishes and condiments to go with rice and porridge.
Need carb to start the day? Fret not. Load up all you want on bagels, breads, doughnuts, rolls, danishes, and croissants.
There's a nice juice and smoothie bar too. Get your coffee and teas here as well.
What's really considerate of them is the takeaway coffee/tea for those who have to dash off quickly.
A selection from the Western offerings: Omelette from the live egg station. Nice beans not from a can, but done from scratch. Smoked salmo, hams and sausages. French beans and shimeji mushrooms. Mini hash browns. The only thing is bacon in Japan always tastes a bit different.
Oh I love a good Japanese breakfast. Rice, seaweed, furikake seasoning. Fish, stewed vegetables, pickles, more seaweed, sweet egg omelette (tamago), and salty plum (ume).
Photo courtesy of the Hilton TokyoAfter all that food, I feel like I need the gym and heated indoor pool. There's a separate gymnastics/yoga area, two outdoor tennis courts, a massage center, traditional Japanese sauna and relaxation zone. The gym runs 24 hours a day and is equipped with 35 PRECOR training machines plus free weights and resistance equipment.
But all too soon it's time to leave.
But it's with fond memories.
The hotel also helped to arrange some experiences around the Shinjuku area. There are lots of shopping and dining options. I'll show you some (including Menya Musashi ramen) in an upcoming post.
We also explored the Conrad Tokyo the following two days, so more on that later too.
For the best available rates, go to the Hilton Hotel Deals website that cover all the brands within the hotel group. The Tokyo page is here - http://en.hiltonhoteldeals.com/tokyo (For the screenshot, I cut and pasted the Hilton Tokyo details upfront, so you can see the what it looks like, plus sample rate).
I also joined the Hilton Honors program. I have friends on it, some of whom are racking up points like crazy. I'm looking forward to do the same!
HILTON TOKYO HOTEL
160-0023, Shinjuku-ku, 6-2 Nishi-Shinjuku 6-Chome, Japan
Many thanks to the Hilton Hotel Group for arranging this experience. Special thanks to Ms Momoko Gonohe and Ms Kazuko Ogawa for hosting us throughout.
Posted 1:53 AM
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Christmas at nydc - an immersion in warm, cheery fun!
This year is flying by real fast. Christmas is less than a month away. And nydc has come up with some goodies for the festive season - Big Plates, Small Plates, and of course desserts and drinks.
I was totally bowled over (yes, pun all intended) by Gingy's Butter Rum Bath (above). It's an Elephanccino™ in which you get to soak a very cute gingerbread man cookie. Look at him just melt and luxuriate in the warmth of his butter rum onsen topped with whipped cream.
And there was another item that really knocked my socks off. It's crispy and spicy! You'll see.
This year, the theme revolves around Santa, and his little helpers. These are mini log cakes (S$6.80) which are perfect for individual indulgence. Holly Choco Log (left) which is a dark chocolate coated buttery chocolate cream centre log while Jolly White Choc Cheese Log has a cream cheese centre underneath a white chocolate coat. Both also available as full size logs (S$48).
As a special treat for Camemberu readers: Get a Free Mini log cake (any flavour) with any order of 1 Christmas big plate and 1 christmas drink (no min spend required). Just mention “Holly Jolly Christmas at nydc” or flash this blogpost on your mobile device! More details at end of post!
Elves’ Salmon Logs (S$9.80)
These are really clever and look like Nordic sushi. Crepe rolls with smoked salmon and cream cheese, and garnished with dill. Pink peppercorns add to the festive look, like holly berries.
Elves’ Mini Meat Munchies (S$9.80)
If fish is not your thing, tuck in to these instead. Meat loaves on toast, topped with either brandied cherries or cranberry jam.
And for the mains (big plates), we have something for hearty appetites!
Santa's Wagyu Steak Frites (S$28.80)
Judging from Santa's big belly, he'd need a good-sized steak. That's what you'll get here. I think it's Australian wagyu, of a leaner cut, so it's very beefy and not too fatty.
Merry Merry Mixed Grill (S$26.80)
This has a bit of everything for people who like variety. Grilled king prawns, beef sirloin, sausages and crispy lamb ribs alongside salad, fries, grilled pineapple and a pepper dip sauce.
When this dish came, all I could smell was the alluring spice mix of the crispy lamb ribs. Oh my!
The awesome crispy spiced lamb ribs! Wow factor, check. Oh, the heady crunch of spiced batter yielding to tender and juicy lamb meat within. It's not too gamey, so even those who don't like lamb may take well to this. Me, I love it. It's so good we asked for extras.
This is an expensive item too. You'd normally only find this in higher end restaurants.
But I really really really hope they make this a permanent small plate item! Four pieces, just right for snacking.
Traditional Cornish Hen (S$16.80)
Instead of turkey, nydc decided to serve Cornish hen. The smaller bird is sweeter and more juicy, something you won't get sick of when every other place is touting turkey. It's served with cornbread stuffing, a caramelised pineapple ring, red cherry, Brussels sprouts, carrots and giblet sauce.
For desserts, you get your Christmas favourites served in fun ways.
Gingy's Butter Rum Bath Elephanccino (S$8.80) - Each Elephanccino comes with a warm Butter Rum bath and an nydc Gingerbreadman for dunking! You can get Gingy on his own too at $4.80! He’s cute.
Tutti Frutti Mudpie (S$11.80)
Oh, this is their ice cream version of fruitcake, which I much prefer. Ice cream densely packed on a graham crackers base, liberally sprinkled with multi-hued gummies on top. It's a happy sight.
Fruity Joyous Delight (S$26.80, 500g)
As for the actual fruitcake, they have it too, but only for corporate or staff orders (of 20 boxes or more). It sure looks good laden with festive fruits and nuts. If you're interested, please email email@example.com for more details.
Individual orders for log cakes can be made three days in advance. Download the Order Form here and drop by any outlet to place your order. Their Early Bird promotion just ended but if you are a SUTL Life Member or Citibank Cardmember, you still get to enjoy 10% off all log cake orders.
Christmas Carollers' Cheer (S$8.50)
It's fresh strawberries, bananas, strawberry cheesecake ice cream and milk with a hint of mint!
There are several promotions going on from now til 31 Dec 2013.
Christmas Set: Enjoy a ‘Mudpie of the Day’ on the house when you order 2 Christmas Big Plates and 2 Christmas Drinks!
Mini Logs Bundle: All good things come by... Half a dozen! Buy 5, get 1 free Mini Logs!
And they're having a 12-day giveaway from 14-25 Dec 2013 - the first 12 customers who spend S$80 and above will get a gift from Santa's sack each day!
AND A SPECIAL TREAT FOR CAMEMBERU READERS:A Free Mini log cake (any flavour) with any order of 1 Christmas big plate and 1 christmas drink (no min spend required). To redeem: Just mention “Holly Jolly Christmas at nydc” or flash this blogpost on your mobile device to enjoy! Feel free to share this with your friends or family.
Fans can only utilise 1 promo code per visit (i.e. all offers cannot be used in conjunction with any other discounts, privileges, promotions or vouchers).
Bugis Junction, #02-47/48
200 Victoria St, Singapore 188021
Tel: +65 6333-3161
Sun - Thurs, PH 11.30am to 10pm
Fri, Sat; Eve of PH 11.30am to 10.30pm
Holland Village, 30 Lorong Mambong
Tel: +65 6469-2998
Sun - Thurs; PH 11.30am to 10.30pm
Fri, Sat; Eve of PH 11.30am to 11pm
Wheelock Place, #02-19
501 Orchard Rd,
Tel: +65 6736-3253
Sun - Thurs; PH 11.30am to 10.30pm
Fri, Sat; Eve of PH 11.30am to 11pm
Thanks to nydc for the invite.
Photos taken with the Canon 5D Mark III kindly loaned by Canon Singapore.
Posted 8:00 AM