by Kumiko Matsuda
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…” was playing through my mind during the longish elevator ascent to the 36th floor of the ANA Hotel Tokyo. This penthouse perch in the center of Tokyo was recently remodeled and renamed the Manhattan Lounge. New York always makes me think of Frank Sinatra, and ANA is, of course, an airline, so it all came together as Frank’s great hit from the ’50s Nelson-Riddled through my brain.
I was also thinking of the man I was meeting, whom I hadn’t seen since he left Tokyo not so long after this skyscraper hotel was built. We’d said our goodbyes on this very same floor, so it was fitting to arrange our reunion in the same place.
We couldn’t manage the same seat though, because of the remodeling. But since we showed up a little past five, we were able to get pretty much the same window, with the same view, apart from the eruption of a number of new buildings in the stretch between Tameike and the Imperial Palace.
I sort of liked the place better when it was the Sky Bar Astral, with its slightly tacky faux elegance making it seem like a men’s pub for those desperate to appear upwardly mobile. Now it’s sleek and gorgeous, with the chic use of black and chrome to highlight the vivid etched glass partitions. There are more hard edges and surfaces now, so even the glass-enclosed wine cellar seems somehow appropriate.
Frank Sinatra was nowhere to be found once we got seated: The background music of early ’90s black contemporary quickly pushed the “stop” button in my mind, and the Chairman of the Board wandered off somewhere else.
I was now in a more deliberate version of New York, with translucent facades in skyscraper silhouettes back-lit in colored light that churned through the spectrum from purple to green and back to purple again.
After ruffling through the menu for a minute or two, my companion ordered the Martini. It was almost ¥2,000, and he remarked it would certainly have to be exceptional for that price. And, after all, this was the Manhattan Lounge.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it in myself to be so decisive. Finally I settled on an original cocktail called Child’s Dream, made with a frozen purée of fresh strawberries, somewhat less expensive at around ¥1,600.
These are total prices, including tax and service charge, thanks to the new price-posting regulations designed to take people’s minds off how much sales tax they are paying. Likely this is the anesthetic before the stab of an increase from five percent to who-knows-how-high.
The Martini was worth it, he said, but only after you factor in the comfortable chairs, the good service and the incredible view. The ANA Hotel Tokyo is in the ARK Hills complex, with ARK standing for Akasaka, Roppongi and Kasumigaseki — three major centers for business, nightlife and government.
ARK Hills is equidistant from all three, giving the 36th floor Manhattan Lounge one of the best urban views in Tokyo. Each of the floor’s three sides faces a different direction; the side we were on is my favorite, with a clear view of the National Diet Building in the foreground and the lush, green forest of the Imperial Palace behind it.
The trick is to get here at dusk, watch the green of the Palace grounds fade to black while the city lights, seemingly one by one, flicker on. By your next drink you can experience a carpet of diamonds, brightly stained here and there by the blotches of advertising signs in nearly every conceivable color.
Our next drinks were more original cocktails; for he the gin-based Persian Night, and for me the Velvet Rouge, red wine with lychee liqueur.
We had so much to talk about since we last saw each other in the ’80s. While the Manhattan Lounge did turn out to be a great place to renew an old friendship, it’s also a good place for more mundane occasions.
On the menu I spotted the Cocktail Time Twilight Wine Festa, available from 5 to 8 p.m., which allows to you freely sample 10 kinds of wine for ¥4,043 and includes a small appetizer plate.
Since wine is one of my passions, I’ll have to come here after work with some of the girls from the office. They might also like the lunch buffet, ¥2,888 on weekdays and ¥3,350 on weekends and holidays.
ANA Hotel Tokyo 36F
1-12-33 Akasaka Minato-ku, Tokyo Tel. 3505-1111
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m