Saturday, August 8, 2015

TRAVEL | Nobu Hotel City of Dreams Manila

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Stylized backlit mural clearly exhibits the Japanese aesthetic of Nobu Hotel Manila.

Sometime last June we got to spend a night at the fairly new Nobu Hotel at City of Dreams Manila. Only less than 3 months since it formally opened, it holds the distinction of being the first Nobu Hotel in Asia (Hooray for the 3rd world!). Coupled with the Robert de Niro association, my expectations were of course high.

Here's a rundown of our experience.

We booked our room directly their site's online booking facility although there are also rooms allocated across several hotel booking engines. There's not much to be said here really.

Arrival and check-in
It was our first time at City of Dreams and I didn't know my way around. It must be the hampaslupa (vagrant) in me. The security personnel weren't of much help and in fact only caused us even more confusion and trouble.

But none of it was Nobu's fault. However, telling me that the valet is full after finally arriving at the hotel sure was. It wasn't a very nice welcome for someone who was ill-advised by security to proceed to the parking building, who got off with our bags in tow, only to go back to the parking and drive out of the parking building, all before finally making it right at the hotel facade. Now the staff was telling me to go park at the parking building? I was having none of it. That's why it's a valet. And this is a 5-star hotel.

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Nobu Hotel's rather diminutive lobby and front desk.

In the end they did take the car, but only after my insistence. One more not so convenient thing with this hotel was at the security inspection before entering. They didn't have any table where you can rest your stuff while they're being searched. I mean, malls have it better.

Things started taking a turn for the better once we presented ourselves at the front desk for check-in. Although there was a bit of a queue, staff were quick to assist us so we didn't have to stand in line the whole time. For me it's an indication that they do value customer experience, that they try to make each guest's stay as convenient and pleasant as possible. At this point I started having doubts about whether the staff stationed outside were under a different management.

Architecture and ambiance
Because Nobu Hotel is part of an integrated resort and casino that is City of Dreams Manila, the exterior basically follows the complex's golden theme, where buildings are all covered in gleaming gold-tinted glass. From the outside it looks just the same as all the other buildings although I find all this gold quite nice, to be honest.

Inside, Nobu works its way with a neo-Japanese aesthetic. Think clean lines, murals, and abundant use of wood. Colors are kept in check, confined mostly to varying shades of brown, which work well with the hotel's predominantly subdued lighting. Japanese-themed paintings adorn the walls while real orchids are found in almost every common area.

However, I think Nobu suffers a bit from the building's architecture, particularly its low ceilings and narrow, rectangular ground floor layout. To me it has somewhat denied the design team the chance to come up with something really awesome. As a result we're left with a slightly cramped lobby that's painfully divided into two sections to make way for the casino entrance. They've stationed the front desk on the left side while the Nobu Lounge that serves tea and Asian snacks occupies the entire right section. And because it's a narrow, rectangular space, seating is confined to only one side of the floor. At least the couches and seats are arranged in varied sets so they don't feel like it's just one row.

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Gold everywhere.

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Lobby seating, or a sampling of which at least. This one's by the front desk. I like the lighting fixture, though.

The hallways are likewise small, as are the lifts. But then Nobu Hotel Manila bills itself as a boutique hotel -- despite having 321 rooms. Well at least in terms of design they've done a good job in making do with what they have, space constrictions and all.

There's a pool deck on the building's Level 1, which is one level above the ground floor, that interconnects all three hotels of City of Dreams, the other two being Hyatt and Crown Towers. The pool is actually very small in relation to the size of the whole space but it's a space that I like. It's of course concrete but it's nicely landscaped. More than a pool deck I'd like to call it a rooftop promenade instead. It's even more attractive at night when all the lights are on.

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On the other side is the Nobu Lounge.

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The outdoor deck looks nice.

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Beautiful by day, the outdoor deck is just as gorgeous at night.

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Having water around makes everything seem a lot nicer.

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Orchids are found just about everywhere in this hotel.

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One of the elevator lobbies.

Our room
We booked a deluxe room, the cheapest of all four accommodation options. It's just about right in size with enough room to move around. The walls are in white with wood accents, adorned with calligraphy art and some framed photographs. The floor is carpeted, and I'm loving the pattern.

Rooms here have either a city or a pool view, or rather the deck below. Ours was a city view, which really wasn't much of a sight at all. Deluxe rooms either have 2 single beds or a large double bed, with furnishings that include bedside tables, lamps, a coffee table with a pair of chairs, and a console-type cabinet that hides the personal fridge and minibar. There's a flat screen TV, an iPod dock, and an an electronic safe and ironing set inside the closet.

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Our deluxe twin room.

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Japanese calligraphy art adorn the wall against the beds.

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Not really the best view of the city, right?

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From another angle. The hotel directory can also be viewed from the TV, which reminds me of Hotel Icon in Hong Kong.

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Inside the drawers: minibar and tea/coffee-making facility.

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The closet and inside. The Japanese-inspired in-room slippers are so cute. Spot them, quick!

More than the bedroom, I like the bathroom's design: white walls, black tiles, and wood. I was particularly amused with the really deep sink. Too bad our room type doesn't have the fancy toilet that automatically opens as you approach it because that would have been fun. I also like the ladder-type towel rack and the wooden planks set against the glass partition for the shower room.

Water pressure and temperature control are both fine, as is the drain. I also like the toiletries for their mild and inoffensive scent.

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That's one really deep sink. I could drown in there.

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A sampling of the bathroom's wooden elements.

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The use of wood against the glass partition adds a bit more character to the bathroom.

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Mildly scented toiletries offer guests a gender-neutral option.

The world-renowned Nobu restaurant chain is of course here at the hotel. Although it's only open for dinner, the restaurant serves breakfast for checked-in guests of the hotel via a buffet that offers predominantly Japanese fare. Here you'll find Japanese-style pancakes (which is denser than the usual pancakes I'm accustomed to) and okonomiyaki, among other items. I personally had a good time with the pancakes and pastries.

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The Nobu Restaurant Manila.

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Pastries and baked goodies are my weakness.

For a full feature of the restaurant, you can check out my review of Nobu Restaurant Manila.

Aside from the 24-hour room service, there is only one other dining option within the hotel, the Nobu Lounge at the lobby, which serves tea and some Asian-style snacks. We haven't tried it, though.

Outside the hotel, however, there are a few more restaurants within the City of Dreams Manila mall area next to the casino on the 2nd floor.

Facilities and amenities
I'm not sure if Nobu has any ballrooms or function rooms but the hotel has a spa and gym on Level 1. Right outside it is the pool deck (or roof deck promenade, at least to me). I haven't tried the spa but the gym looks adequately equipped. However, I find the pool too small for a hotel with 321 rooms. That said, it easily gets crowded.

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The pool deck as viewed from the 5th floor. This was taken at noon but earlier that morning, it was crowded.

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The reception area at the spa and gym.

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The gym.

The hotel may not have much in terms of facilities of its own but since it's within an entertainment complex, it affords guests easy access to the casino, restaurants, some shopping, clubs Pangaea and Chaos, and for your kids, Dreamworks DreamPlay.

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Something to lend the casino a sense of grandeur.

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Outside Dreamworks DreamPlay. I don't know what's inside but I was content with seeing Toothless outside.

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Pangaea and Chaos for clubbing. Not my cup of tea anymore, though.

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Those metallic circles hanging from the ceiling are actually some mechanical installation. The pieces move in patterns. I was mesmerized just watching them move.

With 321 rooms and a diminutive lobby, the front desk area was expectedly packed at 12 noon with guests checking out. There may have been lines at the counters but efficiency and customer experience consciousness were at play once again when hotel staff were quick to assist guests waiting in line. We simply had to wait on one of the couches while checkout processing was underway.

Unlike the case at our arrival, the valet at this point was thankfully efficient.

In hindsight
Nobu Hotel City of Dreams Manila wasn't as grand as I thought it would be. In spite of the building's architectural constrictions, I do like the hotel's design aesthetic. Our stay may also have started on a sour note but Nobu was able to quickly redeem itself, more so in terms of service. Room rates are indeed expensive but I'm still bent on coming back for another staycation, finances permitting.

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A section of the pool deck at night.

Nobu Hotel Manila is located at the City of Dreams Manila resort and casino complex along Asean Ave. corner Roxas Boulevard in Parañaque City.


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  2. That looks nice! A very nice and relaxing place. I love its ambiance and their interior design. There are lots of five star hotels in Philippines and each of them are really worth to visit. Anyway, thanks for sharing your stay. Really love them!

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