Peninsula makes a play for luxury hotel crown

by Frank Czucha

The Peninsula Tokyo opens its doors Saturday, flexing its muscles with a premier location at the foot of Marunouchi’s Naka Dori, dazzling interiors from Yukio Hashimoto, alumnus of local interior bigwigs Superpotato, a 900-sq.-meter spa with “experience showers,” and the city’s second-largest suite, a 347-sq.-meter, ¥850,000-per-night affair that overlooks the picturesque Imperial Gardens next door.

For foodies, it brings a quintet of eateries befitting the sister of Hong Kong’s legendary hotel. There’s a Cantonese restaurant, of course: The Hei Fung Terrace has at its helm a veteran of the Peninsula Hong Kong’s Spring Moon kitchen, whose interior is intended to evoke the historical gardens of Suzhou. As your dinner swims inside one window, another pane looks onto the stoves where signature dishes such as Taiwan-style stewed chicken with shallots and basil leaves take shape.

Two floors below is an even more exclusive dining experience — the first branch of Kyoto’s Tsuruya kaiseki (traditional-style, formal Japanese dinner) restaurant. The original is famed for its garden, an attraction they’ve had to forgo in the Peninsula basement, but the same seasonal delicacies that go for upwards of ¥40,000 in the old capital are served here in a contemporary Japanese setting.

Bring your gold cards.

But the Peninsula Tokyo’s most talked-about spot looks certain to be Peter, a bar and restaurant that takes the concept of “see and be seen” and races with it. Guests enter the top floor through an illuminated steel-frame tunnel that wouldn’t look out of place in a pro-wrestling arena. The theatrics increase as you make your way to your table, crossing a stage as you unwittingly interact with the screen behind you. Video images of Hong Kong feature virtual leaves or snow that waft in your wake — visual frivolity for the amusement of your fellow diners.

And if you’ve been relishing the attention so far, you’ll want to dine in the center of the restaurant, where a single table sits aloft for incomparable see-and-be-seenability. The quirky concept, and its striking eggplant, black and steel color scheme, comes from Yabu Pushelberg, the duo who gave New York’s W Hotel its acclaimed interior.

But lest it all seem a hollow contrivance, Peter’s chef de cuisine, once of London’s Savoy Hotel, has devised a menu of modern international delights, including signature dishes Yonesawa confit beef brisket and warm pineapple-coconut baba cake, which more than match the decor as a draw.

And the bar’s name, in case you’re wondering, is to reward the group’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Borer. Peninsula Hotels have a custom of naming eateries after loyal staff — a kindness that arguably worked better with Hong Kong’s more exotic-sounding Gaddi and Felix.

Rounding off the dining options are the Boutique & Cafe (7 a.m.-10 p.m.) for continental breakfasts and fresh pastries, and The Lobby (6:30 a.m.-1 a.m.), a feature of all Peninsula Hotels, whose extended opening hours stretch from early breakfasts through afternoon teas to late-night cocktails.

In making a play for the luxury crown, the newcomer has gathered a culinary lineup as impressive as it is eclectic.

(03) 6270-2888; tokyo.peninsula.com