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After a 19 hour trip from Washington, the Tokyo Station was a welcome sight. A quick taxi ride to Rappongi and we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. NPS is traveling with the progeny. We’ve been here before, and it is great to be back.

Taxi stand Tokyo Station

Tokyo on arrival

Checkin was smooth. We requested a Twin Club Deluxe room with an extra bed to suite three adults. Our room 1013 is on the concierge level where the club is. Super convenient for breakfast and cocktails.

1013 twin club

The bathroom is spacious and well appointed with an NPS approved shower

Omnipresent screen

1013 is a very nice room, just fine for three adults.

The elevator hallway

A late dinner at The Oak Door steakhouse was impressive indeed. One of the best steaks NPS has ever eaten. Just wow.

Porterhouse (off menu)

The sides were just as fantastic as the steak.

And then it was time for much needed sleep. Sleeping on planes in pods is a fitful and pretty much unfulfilling experience. (United Polaris remains among the best in the business for international travel).

Some tips for Japan travelers. Make sure to reserve a wifi device for your wanderings so you can connect your phone(s) through that. You can pick up your device on landing at Narita at the fourth floor post office. Then get some cash if you can. Japan is all about cash. Finally, try to get a Japan Rail Green pass before you arrive. This trip, the US Post office screwed up delivery of our passes by imposing a six week delay. That meant we had to purchase passes on arrival (still recommended, but more expensive). The US Post Office sucks.

Shibuya mural

Day one in Tokyo started kind of late due to the inevitable jet lag suffered by the progeny. We started at Shibuya station to see the famous mural, the dog statue, and the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection. We also had some soup.

Tokyo Sunglasses

Next was a walk up towards Meiji Jingu that took us by an excellent sunglasses retailer, and the pedestrian shopping streets (very different) Ometesando and Takeshita. Trifles were acquired.

Espresso on the Street

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a magical place. Any source of peace is much needed for NPS at this juncture. Shinto.

Meiji Jingu

We exited the north end of the shrine by some yellow ginkos and walked up to a small mall to share a bottle of french wine.

Samurai Museum

There was just enough time to stop in at the Samurai museum (well worth a peek) before dinner.

Sushi at Makoto Sushi was outstanding.

Then it was off on a cocktail bar crawl of sorts. Sadly Ben Fiddich was full (a reservation is a must, but the only slot we could get by phone was for 6pm, too early for us). So we found a nearby dive bar. Three bar was very professional. Nice ice. Great Negroni measured with care.

We walked from Three Bar through piss alley. Golden Gai was our final destination for the day. We visited Baobab (the first vinyl bar in Tokyo) to listen to some old funk and drink some rum. Then it was off to our final destination Le Parrain (a godfather themed, old school, very smokey bar). Great cocktails included a Jack Rose, and over sweet Old Fashioned, and a Corpse Reviver #2 or two. (Special thanks to Jacques Bezuidenhout for excellent cocktail and food data.)

Le Parrain cocktail round

Day two in Tokyo also got off to a late start, this time because two of three of us on this trip work working (hint: not NPS who is “retired“). The day was devised with some help from Patrick who has lived in Tokyo for 10 years or so. The trip began at Hinade pier where we caught a city ferry up to Asakusa pier. The trip was about 40 minutes and a fun way to get around Tokyo.

Fuji Ramen (Tokyo)

Fuji Ramen shop

Our first stop of the day was at Fuji Ramen near Senso-ji temple. Absolutely delicious ramen!

The weather was drizzly at Senso-ji, which somehow seems to fit the mood of the temple. (See more about this visit on apothecaryshed.)

Walking Tokyo

From there, we walked to Kappabashi street to see the kitchenware and plastic food.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

A taxi delivered us to the Ueno park area where we spent an hour looking at impressionist paintings from France (because what else are you supposed to look at while in Japan?) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The people at the art museum, though teeming, were absolutely silent as they looked at the famous paintings. (See up and down art on apothecaryshed.)

Vending

A short walk through the park and a quick cab ride deposited us at our last stop, Akihabara. The progeny was familiar with all of the Anime stuff. NPS simply watched in awe of the breadth of Anime culture.

We cabbed back to the hotel for a brief pit stop before an incredibly great dibber at PST Pizza Studio Tamaka (in Roppongi close to the hotel). Recommended by friends of Jacques, the pizza at PST is Italian style and absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

Our final stop before crashing and burning in the jetlag haze of day two was the Mori tower. The view of Tokyo and surrounds from 50 floors is not to be missed.

Day three started way early for a trip on the Shinkansen to Kyoto, about which see this NPS blog entry.

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Great to be back. This place is an NPS recommended home base in Tokyo.

Back at The Donovan D.C.

December 9, 2015

No fly nöel is not all it’s cracked up to be this year. No airplanes is nice, but local meetings fill the agenda. After one whole week, we’re back in DC, this time at the Donovan. The Donovan is a Kimpton property run by GM Steph Vogel.

1010 at Night

1010 at Night

View from the Donovan

View from the Donovan

No time this trip meant showing up at midnight. Dang. After dinner at Tabard Inn and a nightcap of Japanese Hirsch 16 bourbon at Jack Rose, the water was pretty much essential.

Thank goodness for sparkling water

Thank goodness for sparkling water

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Some of our favorite Kimpton things (thanks Steph): a glass shower, water, and power by the bed.

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Five showerheads for the Donovan and a wish that this trip to DC were not quite so rushed.

General Thomas

General Thomas

Located on Thomas Circle in NW Washington, The Donovan is a Kimpton property in the midst of transformation. Apparently, General Thomas was a Union general.

View from 1010

View from 1010

A warm Kimpton greeting was in store (Steph Vogel runs a tight ship). Room 1010 is very nice.

Have a seat in 1010

Have a seat in 1010

Sitting room with a view

Sitting room with a view

Bedroom 1010

Bedroom 1010

View from the glass shower

View from the glass shower

Not plastic

Not plastic

The rooftop bar has real potential. Ditch the pool and improve the bar selection a notch and this place could cook.

Big plans (spun by Derek himself) to visit Southern Efficiency were thwarted by Monday. What? Eat the Rich was also closed. Because the Derek buildings are all situated next door to each other, Mockingbird Hill became the destination.

The Derek Complex in Shaw

The Derek Complex in Shaw

Ultimately, it was nice to ride the sherry bandwagon for a short hitch. Barman Phil made a delicious Old Fashioned with PX that carried chocolate overtones and reminded us of the Old 48. The pork was delicious.

Our next ill-fated Monday night move was to shlep over to Hank’s Oyster Bar for a bite to eat. Maybe it was an off night, but Hank’s was awful. Service was bad. Food was tasteless. Wine was unavailable. Even the oyster order was flubbed by the waiter (who frankly has no business working the front of the house). The storied bar upstairs was improperly staffed. Done with Hank’s. Cross it off the list.

The night ended on a great note thanks to Jack Rose. Fantastic selection of bourbon. Brittney Roberson was an excellent host.

Trouble in paradise this visit which started out about as chunky as possible—no reservation. I always rely on my travel people to get things squared away (thanks edie!) and they are great. This time I let an outside firm work travel. Yes, I did already know not to do that! When I tried to tack a day on to this trip, everything went south fast.

Having arrived in the nick of time to drop stuff off and head to DC for a business dinner, I was confronted with a problem. No reservation and no available rooms in the hotel. While very courteous, the front desk clerk Damien was ultimately not very helpful at all, and he did not escalate to more senior management. My inner circle Kimpton status did not seem to make much difference either. I was in a bind.

Fortunately, Stephan Vogel (GM at the George) had my back and started an email thread to find me a room on DC including the new GM of the DC Palomar Josh Lustig. (FWIW, Josh just took over from Abe Liao.) While they were solving the problem, I finally got a message back from the people who had messed up the reservation in the first place. They convinced the Monaco to give me a room. So that’s good…

But it was room 315, which if I were you I would avoid. It faces the street and is very noisy in the morning starting around 6:30am. It is also a handicap accessible room with a shower over tub design. Not my style.

Of course, not knowing I was staying the night made it hard for the Monaco to do anything to greet me or personalize my stay. Apparently they don’t monitor the twitter feed very closely. If they did, the problem would have been discovered way before my arrival.

I was told that I can get a different (better) room for the second night. Hopefully that is the case.

Room 315

Room 315

Bathroom in 315

Bathroom in 315

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

I rushed off to a fantastic business dinner at Le Diplomate (highly recommended, especially the world class bread). Larry secured us a VIP table. After dinner it was off on a bourbon search, first to bourbon (booked for a private event) and then to Jack Rose (also booked for a private event, but by friends as it turned out). Jack Rose has a fantastic bourbon selection that included Pappy 23, Pappy 20, and two varieties (US and Japanese) of Hirsch 16.

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

When I returned to 315 at midnight, I was greeted with a belated welcome note and a shot or two of bourbon (!!) from Pete and Jess, who turned out to be people from the organization hosting the meeting. Somebody is paying attention, but are any Kimpton people paying attention?! For the record I did have to go find a paper in the morning.

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

After a long day of meetings and presentations I returned briefly to the Monaco and switched to room 503. 503 is an excellent room and I appreciate the move, but strangely nobody mentioned the mixup, the bind, the switch. It’s as if “these are not the droids you’re looking for” applies.

There's nothing to see here.  All is well.

There’s nothing to see here. All is well.

Cheese plate and San Pellegrino. So they do know I am here! Awesome. But no note, so “they” remain unknown.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

503 suite is sweet

503 suite is sweet

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

The shower in 503 is fantastic. Great water pressure and plenty of glass-defined space. As usual, there is a huge (unused) tub in this room as well.

No plastic shower in 503

No plastic shower in 503

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More data from Alexandria, the Landini Brothers restaurant has workaday Italian with a weird but decent wine list and food served by Spanish-speaking waiters. The PX Lounge is so full of itself that though they might make a decent cocktail, it is ultimately skippable. The greeter/waitress/busybody calls herself a “den mother” which pretty much says it all. If you’re not a cub scout, ignore the reviews by foodies with no cocktail clue (sietsema) and go somewhere else. Yes, PX some of us know more about mixing drinks than you do.

Hotel Monaco is a great place to stay. Some more attention to personal service seems to be warranted. A low four showerheads for this visit. I’m sure I will be back and I will make sure to make my own reservation!

This is the first in a series of first person cocktail mixing videos we’ll post from time to time using google glass at coalstovesink bar. Why? Because we’re geeks, that’s why. We’ll start with a Jack Rose since a fresh shipment of Laird’s Applejack and 7yr old apple brandy arrived today from Schneider’s of DC.

The Jack Rose is a very easy to drink cocktail from the old school. A bit on the sweet side for our noplasticshowers tastes, but a favorite at the bar in any case.

Jack Rose
1.5 oz Applejack (get some Laird’s if you can)
juice from 1/2 lime
2 generous dashes of fresh grenadine
shake. strain. garnish with lime wedge.