I have just returned from a brief trip to New York and had the good fortune to stay at the Alex Hotel in midtown Manhattan, and can recommend it highly to the readers of NiteDine. New York is an expensive place to stay, and in the past I have even advised readers on a budget to go to Jersey City and catch the train in to avoid the high cost of hotel rooms in Manhattan. However the 203 room/suites Alex is good value for a luxury private hotel, and since the hotel is comprised mainly of suites, the chances of being in one are pretty good, with upgrades from guest rooms pretty inexpensive at $50.
The hotel has only been open since April 2004 so it still retains that feeling of newness, especially in the suites, which have been designed by David Rockwell with a clean, balanced design. The 33-story tower is very close to Grand Central Station, the United Nations and Park, Madison and Fifth Avenues. Many diplomats stay in the hotel, some for extended stays, so service has to be impeccable, and the manager, a charming woman named Mary Lou Pollack is right on the ball and is not adverse to balling someone out in private if they fall short of the high standards expected here.
Another aspect of the hotel I liked a lot is that there were only 5 suites on my floor, allowing for zero interaction with other guests. Every suite features Frette linens, limestone bathrooms, Frederick Fekkai bath amenities and fully equipped Poggenpohl kitchens with sub-zero refrigerators stocked with goodies. Throw in the Sharp flat-panel AQUOS Liquid Crystal televisions located in the living room, bedroom and bathroom, and you have a home from home hotel suite that will set you up for a night on the town.
What slightly surprised me was the really friendly nature of all the staff, certainly not as aggressive as I would have suspected, given the frenzied pace of the city that seems to be in a permanent but very controlled hurry. Also, all the housemaids spoke English. There is 24 hour room service with food very reasonably priced, and a concierge service, business center and a Fitness center with an in-house personal trainer.
The hotel has an in house restaurant called Riingo that has received some acclaim from the local food critics, partly due to the menu being created by star chef Marcus Samuelsson. He also does double duty at Aquavit, so executive chef Johan Svennson runs the kitchen on a daily basis providing his own flair to the menu. The sushi bar is run by Shinegori Tanaka, and the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had one of their signature omelets for breakfast, and I also hear that their French toast is one of the best in the city.
An example of the kind of food you can expect at Riingo's for dinner would be a very creative appetizer such as a goat cheese salad with a red beet glaze with cerica, which is a hard to find Peruvian fruit that looks like a yellow bell pepper. Follow that with beer-braised short ribs with apple puree and hearts of palm, and seared tuna with beef cheek ravioli. If you do get to go to Riingo's, make sure to demand the baby donuts with green tea ice-cream.
There is so much to do in New York that it is impossible to map out a plan, but a visit to Grand Central Station is a must. The décor is so familiar with the many movies you have seen, and the New York Transit Authority Museum on site is well worth a visit. After that catch a subway a short distance downtown to the Ground Zero area, and see what is happening down there, currently a hot local political issue. Then take a walk through Wall Street, and then to Battery Park where you can see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, and the rather impressive skyline of Jersey City.
For the nightlife there is such an abundance of restaurants and night clubs, that it would be impossible to single out too many, but I did check out Randy Gerber's club the Stone Rose in the Time Warner Building. A pretty hip place with a great view and no admission charge and a slightly older crowd downing the martini's that are all the rage now everywhere, served with Grey Goose Vodka. Flying to New York is easier than ever with Jet Blue and Song pushing the route hard at very good prices, so get out there and have a good time if you have not been recently.
Mike HepworthOctober 2005
Mike HepworthOctober 2005