See you in our City of Dreams
The gardens within the City of Dreams complex, which 17 designers collaborated on, are as elaborately landscaped as the Palace of Versailles. Photos by MANNY MARCELO
The City of Dreams complex, which includes the Nobu Hotel, Crown Towers and Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, is set to expand Manila’s entertainment dreamscape with a grand opening on Feb. 2.
They all want in.
What do they want “in” on?
MANILA, Philippines - City of Dreams, the mega-complex of hotels, casinos and restaurants set to light up yet another area of Manila Bay with its official launch on Feb. 2.
The big question: Will Nobu owner Robert De Niro, Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese and heartthrob actor Leonardo DiCaprio actually be coming to Manila for that launch?
Charisse Chuidian, City of Dreams VP for Public Relations, tells us about a just-released local TV ad featuring the three Hollywood players capering about in a casino, with the tagline: “They all want in.” And a series of billboards outside the complex seems to hint as much. But, close to opening day, Chuidian and other City of Dreams bigwigs are keeping mum. What with Pope Francis visiting Manila this week, and final touches being completed at the 6.2-hectare City of Dreams (COD), this is probably not the time to go celebrity crazy.
Still, getting a glimpse of the three hotels making up City of Dreams — Hyatt, Nobu Hotel and Crown Towers — is enough of a glittering experience, even without the Hollywood glitz. Over a very fine lunch at Cantonese restaurant Crystal Dragon, Chuidian says that with 940 rooms available, a two-level casino open, and a bevy of excellent new restaurants (Nobu among them), City of Dreams looks to expand Manila’s entertainment dreamscape quite a bit more.
In a complex developed by Australian billionaire James Packer and Lawrence Ho (son of Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho) through Melco Crown Enterprises, the P37-billion City of Dreams is yet another jewel in the burgeoning Entertainment City lining Manila Bay. But, while the flavor of City of Dreams is international, the staff uniforms are perhaps the most visible reflection of Filipino creativity: exquisitely designed by Rajo Laurel, Dennis Lustico and Vania Romoff.
The integrated casino resort — located auspiciously close to the “Fortune Egg,” the City of Dreams’ dome-shaped architectural landmark — is a gamer’s paradise, with 380 gaming tables, 1,700 slot machines and 1,700 electronic table games for both VIP high rollers and mass-market players alike.
If gaming’s not your thing, entertainment options include Dreamplay, Dreamworks Studio’s first interactive play space complete with movie mascots (you can leave kids there, if you sign a waiver; for adults, the rate is cheaper); Pangaea and Chaos, two trendy nightclubs run by the Michael Alt Marina Bay Sands group; a shopping arcade featuring luxury brands like Roberto Cavalli, Rolex and Cesare Paciotti; and eateries like the signature Red Ginger, a pan-Southeast Asian haven of comfort food offering delicious takes on beef rendang and nasi goreng, Erwin’s Gastrobar, O Kitchen, Ruby Jack’s Steakhouse & Bar, Apu Filipino Cuisine, and a Godiva Chocolate Café.
Among City of Dreams’ three hotels, the Hyatt is the most affordable, with come-ons like a 24-hour buffet and Aqua Suite with shower area large enough to fit a family of four.
“You can hold meetings in there,” says Jose Badelles, Hyatt COD’s marketing communications manager, and though he’s joking, it’s actually true.
If you don’t require a room-sized shower, you can choose between a Twin or 36-sq.m. King room, which will serve as a very comfortable base from which you can access food outlets like The Café, a midnight buffet (all you can eat for P1,088) with five stations offering fresh seafood, fried and grilled items that are fired up only upon ordering.
“We have an a-la-minute concept, so you won’t see huge mounds of food but it’s all cooked fresh,” says Stijn Van Leeuwen, The Café’s food and beverage manager. “Customers can specify the doneness of their steak, for example, so there’s a very good interaction between the chefs and our customers.”
The Hyatt’s facilities include a Franck Provost salon, fitness center and outdoor pool, to which guests aren’t limited. Meaning, Hyatt guests can swim in the Nobu Hotel pool, and vice versa — a nice perk on top of everything else.
Kevin Sim, chief operating officer of City of Dreams, welcomes us into the Crown Tower lobby, and we’re already seeing double. That’s because they’ve hired nine sets of twins to serve as lobby girls. “We’re different,” Sim explains, as the two ladies wearing pillbox hats gamely pose for pictures.
Double the casino space, too, as Crown offers two floors of betting options, including gaming tables, slot machines, electronic games and VIP rooms.
Crown Towers offers a unique experience for high rollers as well: the luxury of parking your helicopter at the Tower One helipad, literally checking in at the eighth floor and having a personal butler escort you directly to the casino tables. Talk about an inside straight!
Then there is that eye-popping “six-star hotel” claim. Whether such a category actually exists or not — most international hotel accrediting agencies claim it does not, though the term has been bandied around by plenty of casino complexes — the Crown Tower certainly fulfills every requirement of a topnotch five-star hotel.
The personal butlering service at Crown Towers is another thing that sets it apart. According to general manager Brett Hickey, the 80 rooms, suites and villas in Tower One are for Signature Club members only — you must be invited to stay there.
But what perks: all Tower Suites guests are assigned one of 48 personal butlers who will attend to their every need — whether it’s personal shopping, laundry requests, transportation, or getting room service from Nobu or any of the other restaurants in City of Dreams. Hickey describes a request last New Year’s Eve: a guest wanted to watch the fireworks display from the helipad level of Tower One. Not only was the wish granted, but with a bucket of chilled Champagne and canapés on standby. The butler service is as personal as you want it — and the same butler will be assigned to you, 24/7, for the duration of your stay.
Each of the rooms, suites and seven lavish villas of Tower Suites offer high-speed Internet access, JBL docking stations, flat-screen smart TVs and a gallery of luxury bathroom amenities. (Those staying in villas can choose from amenity brands such as Hermes, Acqua di Parma, L’Occitane, Salvatore Ferragamo, Chopard and Bulgari.)
With two towers and 254 rooms, the Crown has exclusive facilities as well, such as a private swimming pool (Crown guests may explore all the City of Dreams pools, but the Crown pool is restricted only to guests and members. Want to double your relaxation? Crown guests can enjoy the freeform pool with a welcome kit of Evian spritzer, smoothie and complimentary use of Christian Dior sunglasses.)
Such luxury does not come cheaply, as a three-bedroom Premier Suite at Crown Towers can run from P60,000 a night to P340,000 for the bi-level, 548-sq.m. Presidential Suite.
For your culinary needs, the Crown caters to rarefied tastes: The Tasting Room is a French haute cuisine resto where Basque chef William Mahi offers special six-course degustation and wine-pairing menus (including popular favorites like the 52-degree egg with truffle, 36-hour marinated salmon and aged Wagyu beef); across the way you will find Crystal Dragon, where Malaysian chef Bong Choi offers a heavenly dim sum trio (Four Seasons, minced duck with black pepper and minced pork spinach dumplings), stir-fried prawns with butter and crispy egg floss, and oven-baked marinated codfish with five spices.
One of the City of Dreams’ major coups is scoring the first Nobu Hotel in Asia, second only to the Las Vegas original.
The City of Dreams outpost continues what general manager Marlon Hirsh calls “the unique Nobu hospitality — understated, chic and trendy” being the main buzzwords that define the Nobu experience.
Inspired by boutique hotels and a Japanese bamboo motif, the lobby boasts the very first Nobu teahouse in the world, featuring hand-tied Ikaati teabags and a refined array of pastries. Plush shagreen elevators take you up to one of the 321 rooms, which induce an immediate Zen mindset with the shadow-style calligraphy on the walls (and the “o” in Nobu) signifying a free flow of energy. Other unique touches are the geta slippers and minibars, stocked with the Nobu sake and Matsuhisa wine that’s only found at 32 Nobu restaurants around the world.
Hirsh says Nobu co-owner Robert De Niro is very hands-on: “He sits on each piece of furniture and gives us his comments,” but again, no word on whether the legendary actor will be attending the grand opening.
At the Nobu restaurant, which is the largest in the world, breakfasts and other dishes on the menu have been “Nobu-fied” (or Filipinized, depending on your perspective), with Wagyu tapsilog, Sakana (Japanese fish) sisig, and paella on offer. Executive chef Zach Hillberry is the man responsible for the merry fusion, saying that these were the dishes he liked upon arrival in the Philippines, and that he included paella as a nod to our Spanish colonial history.
Of course, signature dishes such as Rock Shrimp Creamy Spicy, Toro Tartar with Caviar, and Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño are available to local diners, and “every meal at Nobu is meant to be a kaiseki experience,” Hillberry says.
The bespoke philosophy of the hotel extends to the spa, where the signature Nobu Rakuen treatment includes yoga exercises to help client and therapist breathe together as one, followed by a relaxing massage with bamboo rollers.
No wonder the Nobu Hotel was fully booked during the holiday season, and is currently at 75 percent occupancy, with a clientele comprised of locals and Chinese from Taiwan and Mainland China. Many, it seems, are seeking that unique brand of Nobu hospitality found only in this corner of the world.
To reserve at Crown Towers, Hyatt City of Dreams Manila or Nobu Hotel, call 800-8080 or book through the City of Dreams website: www.cityofdreams.com.ph/.
As featured in www.philstar.com