When the elevator door closes at the ground floor, the lights are dim. As you rise soundlessly the lights gradually, almost imperceptibly, brighten. When you reach the 41st floor, a burst of light propels you into the luminous lobby.
The Park Hyatt Tokyo, the city's best hotel, is located on the top of a 55-story three-tower skyscraper, Shinjuku Park Tower, one of Japan's tallest and most dramatic buildings. The ascent from the teeming streets of the world's most populous city to the serene and pristine clarity of this aerie is like being picked up and deposited on another planet. The lobby is the lowest of three dramatic spaces crowned by soaring glass pyramids. Also contained in this expanse is the Peak Lounge, a bright garden setting where light foods, afternoon tea and cocktails can be enjoyed while admiring the view.
The welcome you receive is the classic combination of formality, deference and warmth that the Japanese are known for. Throughout your stay the sincerity of the greeting is genuine, never perfunctory. And you will be greeted frequently, but never obtrusively.
Under the middle pyramid is the Club on the Park, a two-floor health and fitness club that includes a spectacular 20-meter pool, steam baths, saunas, relaxation lounges, an aerobic studio, a well-equipped gym and a friendly pool bar. It is one of the most comfortable and modern health facilities in Asia.
There are only 178 rooms at the Park Hyatt Tokyo--almost a boutique size in contrast to the five- and six-hundred room behemoths that have sprung up in Asia's biggest cities. The rooms average 50 square meters, the largest in Tokyo (more space than houses most of the city's families). They are fitted with two dedicated phone lines, a laptop port, voice mail, a personal fax and a player of laser discs and CDs. Baths contain deep soaking tubs, shower stalls with multiple showerheads, and commodes with heated seats and built-in bidet functions.
The rooms and public areas have a calm beauty that is both traditional and contemporary. The mood is set by fabric and wood textures. The look of the Park Hyatt was created by John Morford, an American designer who lives in Hong Kong. His selection of original art and handwoven fabric is remarkable and pervasive.
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Park Hyatt Tokyo is the food. In addition to the Peak Lounge, there are three restaurants: the striking Girandole, a bright all-day eatery serving Western food under a halo of photographs depicting diners in the great cafes of Europe; Kozue, the starkly beautiful Japanese restaurant that features the modern creations of Kenichiro Ohe, a brilliant chef who tweaks traditional Kaiseki cuisine; and The New York Grill (and its stylish New York Bar), which has brought to Tokyo a level of Western sophistication hitherto available only to businessmen traveling abroad. The food at the New York Grill is colorful and creative and the wine list is all-California, featuring such heavyweights as 1991 Spottswood Cabernet, 1994 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir and 1993 Beringer Sbragia Reserve Chardonnay.
General manager David Udell, himself a cigar smoker, encourages the consumption of fine cigars in his flagship restaurant, whose humidor is packed with Cohibas and Montecristos. "The high-quality clientele we want to attract to The New York Grill are likely to be cigar smokers," he says. "We want them here!"
--Anthony Dias Blue
Anthony Dias Blue is the author of America's Kitchen and a commentator on CBS radio.
Park Hyatt Tokyo
3-7-1-2-Nishi -Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Phone: (81) 3-5322-1234; fax: (81) 3-5322-1288
Room rates (approximately from the yen): superior, $315; deluxe, $520; suites from $822 to $4,564