By Marwan Naaman
One of New York’s greatest attractions is its international flavor. Like other major world cities – London, Paris, Los Angeles – New York is a heady melting pot of different cultures, each contributing to give the city its very own distinct aura. Asian culture in particular, is leaving an indelible imprint on the Big Apple, with significant Japanese, Chinese and Korean populations in Manhattan, as well as large Filipino and Vietnamese enclaves in Queens. If you’re visiting New York, you can get a strong dose of Asian glamour by visiting the city’s upscale, Asian-flavored hotels, boutiques and restaurants.
The Mandarin Oriental in New York, part of the famed Hong Kong-based chain of hotels, perfectly captures the city’s over-the-top glamour. Set on Columbus Circle, atop the Time Warner Center, the Mandarin Oriental is Manhattan’s grande dame, a place where you can live out all of your Asian-flavored fantasies and feel like you’ve conquered the world. Unlike traditional hotels, where the lobby is set on the ground level, the Mandarin Oriental begins on the 35th floor and rises all the way to the 54th floor of the landmark glass building in which it lives. The Lobby Lounge, on the 35th floor, features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the mythic grandeur of Central Park. Hotel rooms and suites shimmer with a black, gold and cream color palette, inspired by the Asian Art Deco style of the 1940s. Asian cherry wood furniture, beds with black leather headboards, silk throws and Fili D’Oro linens complete the design picture. And for those of you who want to stay in shape during your Manhattan sojourn, the Mandarin Oriental also houses a state-of-the-art fitness center and a lap pool that seems to float above the Hudson.
When it comes to Asian restaurants, New York possesses some of the most eclectic and inventive Asian eateries in the world. The one with the greatest claim to fame is undoubtedly Asiate, which is located inside the Mandarin Oriental. Here, to accompany dazzling, dramatic views of Central Park, executive chef Christian Pratsch prepares refined Asian-American fusion cuisine to captivate the senses. Further north, on the Upper West Side, stands RedFarm, currently the most popular Chinese restaurant in the city, and the place where dim sum chef Joe Ng combines efforts with Chinese food expert Ed Schoenfeld to serve delectable Chinese fare. Travel down to Noho, and you have the classic French-Vietnamese restaurant Indochine, which since 1984 has been creating exotic dishes like Vietnamese bouillabaisse. And be sure not to miss out on iconic restaurant Annisa, owned and operated by award-winning chef Anita Lo. At this West Village hotspot, chef Lo creates New American cuisine strongly influenced by her Asian roots and classic French techniques.
Shopping, of course, is an essential part of any trip to New York. This time around though, focus on three of the city’s revered Asian-American designers, all of whom have eponymous boutiques in Soho. First off, you have the venerable Vera Wang, best known for her fantasy wedding dresses, but also esteemed for her classically elegant women’s ready-to-wear line. Then there’s 3.1 Phillip Lim. Like Vera Wang, Phillip Lim is American of Chinese descent, and he offers everyday classics for men and women at his luxurious boutique. Last but certainly not least, check out Alexander Wang, current creative director of Balenciaga. Born in San Francisco to Taiwanese parents, the 31-year-old is beloved for his urban designs, for both men and women, all of which are available under his own label at his sleek Manhattan boutique.