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On the way out of Japan, NPS spent one last night in Tokyo at the Peninsula Hotel. The Peninsula is situated near Tokyo Station right by the high fashion (and expensive) Ginza district.

Check in was a bit chunky when we arrived, because the front desk was understaffed, but we were eventually serviced and upgraded into a city view suite. Room 1712 had not only a spacious set of rooms, but also chauffeur services and breakfast in the room for 500 yen.

Peninsula common area

Sitting room features comfy couches and chairs

The bedroom sub suite is set apart from the living room. There is an extra toilet for entertaining.

Extra bathroom

Makeup desk

Bedroom

The window of the bedroom (by the desk) over looks the city

The spacious bathroom has multiple sinks and a non-plastic shower. The shower could use better water pressure.

Huge tub with city view

Shower

Luggage room and walk in closet

All in all this is one of the best laid out and most interesting suites NPS has ever stayed in.

A visit to the nearby high fashion mall cost us a pretty penny in designer clothing. And then it was off to dinner at the great hole in the wall Sake No Ana. Worth a visit!

Tokyo traffic

Sake no ana

Sake lineup one

The victor

Sake lineup two

The second victor

At sake no ana, dinner is Japanese pub food. You know, like waygu beef cooked on a rock.

The peninsula also provided airport transportation to Narita in a BMW which was well worth the price on the last day of a long trip. We were ferried to the airport in style and helped through the checkin process. Security was very very fast leaving time for sushi at Kyotatsu (terminal one near gate 34).

Five showerheads foe the Peninsula hotel. Very chic in the fashion district of Tokyo.

Bergen is a beautiful city of 250,000 surrounded by mountains and water. It’s a fantastic place to visit.

Bergen in the morning

Bergen in the morning

Unlike Bergen, the Scandic hotel in the city (there is one at the airport too) is a bit generic for our tastes on this blog. I suppose Scandic is the Marriott of Scandenavia. Marriotts are something we avoid.

The bed has strange Norwegian bed fittings.  Fun.

The bed has strange Norwegian bed fittings. Fun.

I am in 757, which according to the map on the door seems to be a representative room. The room is clean and nice, but worn. Think beautiful lines with pockmarks and cracks. There are some nice features, including free decent wifi and power by the bed. But there are things that need repair and/or replacement. For example there is a broken tile in the bathroom on the tub and a lingering mildew smell in the air.

Work pod with plenty of power.

Work pod with plenty of power.

A candy welcome amenity falls squarely in the Marriott category. It’s nice that they stopped by 7-11 so you don’t have to. But candy bar? OK.

Amentity?

Amentity?

Euro-shower = non-plastic. The most interesting feature is the security disaster that is generic shared soap dispensers. Nair? Poison? Ink? Norwegians just don’t think that way.

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However, such a trusting nature does lead to real hangers (of which we approve).

The hangers trust you.

The hangers trust you.

All in all a very low four showerheads for the Scandic. I’ve been here before mostly because it is a conference hotel in the city. There have got to be better places to stay in Bergen though.

Then again, the barman at the Scandic introduced us to Tesseron Extreme Cognac, a pricey but delicious elixer whose oldest components hail from 1906–>1858 range.

A late dinner at Sumo was workaday. Fine sushi, but nothing to write home about.

We will throw in an absolute gem in Bergen to round things out and end on a high note. The No Stress bar is super fantastic. Expert bartender Tessa Ostervold caused us to have a delightful evening after the noisy conference dinner. Thanks Tessa. Among other shenanigans, we concocted the OK Glass Cocktail as follows:
5 cl Blanton’s bourbon
2 cl Dolin’s red
1 sugarcube soaked in Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters
2 t of fernet branca
Shake. Serve up. Garnish with an orange peel expressed.

Tessa

Tessa

There was pappy 20.

Pappy van Winkle 20 bourbon

Pappy van Winkle 20 bourbon

Did I say super fantastic? I’ll be back. (And rumor has it that Tessa may open her own place in Bergen one day.)

Maybe we here at NPS are getting even more spoiled? Or maybe hotel standards are rising? Probably both. Whatever it is, the College Hotel seems to be fraying around the edges.

What used to be a quirky and particularly stupid internet solution involving a password for each device (I have 4) and no tracking of MAC addresses is no longer tenable. Even with a monolithic wifi router for “VIP’s,” the throughput today is so bad that OOKLAs speedtest takes several minutes to load. Need to get some high-throughput work done? Better find better net elsewhere (like, say, the RSA Europe Conference). The net and its denizens have changed in the last few years, and the creaky unreliable net available here at College Hotel is no longer going to work.

When I went to see whether there was a better solution this morning, I was informed that the VIP net has a different ISP. I am pretty sure they mean different wireless router (same ISP). No dice. Need proof?

Speed test from the College Hotel (woe is us)

Speed test from the College Hotel (woe is us)

The bar program has also receded drastically since the days of Luke Gertsen who sadly has left rainy Amsterdam for Curacoa where he is, fittingly enough, running his own bar. You may recall that Luke and his understudy Mads Voorheove went so far as to procure a bottle of Amer Picon from France last time NPS was here just to try a real Liberal. That bottle has long since disappeared as has most of the mixology clue.

Case in point. As cocktail fanatics, we wanted a pre-dinner cocktail but the default list was pretty dull (no serious house concoctions anymore). I asked for a Liberal, wrote down explicit instructions, asked for them not to try to make one without the proper ingredients, talked about whether there was Amer Picon still in the house. Eventually they brought me something which they claimed was a Liberal. I even tweeted its picture. It was not.

Betrayed by a bartender. After dinner I went to show the bartender (who shall remain nameless) how to do it right and he revealed his trickery. I think that sucks. I would rather not be misled. And I sure as hell don’t want to pay to be misled. So as a reward I taught him to make a Nevada. At least there’s that. Grumble.

So how about the rooms? I am in 101 this time which is very similar in flavor to 109 but with a better bathroom.

One way 101.

One way 101.

Other way 101.

Other way 101.

The problems with this room are all small but niggling. Like, no outlets by the desk. Incomprehensible room light switches that do random things. No tissues in the bathroom. No music playback device. But the real kicker is bad net (as discussed above). These are all things that upscale hotels (like say, the Kimptons) are doing well. Time for Europe to catch up.

The shower is really nice though. A serious drencher.

Shower pod and toilet pod?!

Shower pod and toilet pod?!

There was a welcome note from the manager Bobbby and some candies when I arrived. That is a very nice thing for Europe and very rare indeed.

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While we’re on the very good aspects of the College Hotel, we need to give some serious kudos to the restaurant. I’ve had several meals there and last night’s dinner was the best so far. Very good oxtail ravioli soup followed by excellent and very Dutch/Italian risotto. Delicious and expertly put together. Thank you chef.

And a bar redemtion. Tonight, barman Rick made both a very good Dutch Negroni and a McSherry Sour:
4 cl Maccallan Amber
20 cc Amontillado Sherry (medium dry)
25 cc Lemon juice
15 cc vanilla simple syrup 2:1
Stir down. Serve on the rocks with a fancy lemon garnish. [This desperately needs a Luxardo cherry and a smidge of such syrup to make it perfect.]

We held an event at the College Hotel on night2, and the event was very nicely executed by the staff, including the barman. Live jazz always helps. After the event we headed out for a late dinner at Solo which was pretty not bad. Then late night drinks at the fantastic door 74. It’s still impossible to get in without a reservation. Absinthe hour stretched to 4am.

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Day3 included trick or treating with the kids (not mine…some friends’) followed by an absolutely world class round of sushi at Okura’s Yamazato Restaurant sushi bar. As good as any sushi I have had anywhere (NY and San Jose might be just a tad better), this restaurant is beyond authentic. No wonder they have a Michelin star.

Of course no visit to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the exquisite Van Gogh museum. It was a particular treat for two reasons: 1) just after the Phillips visit there was lots of data in my head, 2) Friday night there is live music and video art.

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Better net and a better bar will earn the College Hotel the ranking it should have. Meanwhile, four showerheads it is.

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