Three hotel service pros, from New York, Tokyo, and Moscow, share their best advice and tools of the trade.
Maria Trejo-McDonald, Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
Background After more than two decades in Manhattan, Trejo-McDonald, 45, a model turned ballet dancer turned concierge, is particularly agile at steering guests toward unique Gotham experiences.
Must-see Museum “A lesser-known stop on Museum Mile is the Neue Galerie (1048 Fifth Ave.; 212/ 628-6200), a Beaux-Arts mansion filled with Austrian paintings. They recently acquired a $135 million Klimt, the most expensive painting in the world. Afterward, you can have Austrian-style strudel at Café Sabarsky downstairs.”
Hottest Table “Right now the toughest restaurant to get into is the Waverly Inn (16 Bank St.; no phone; dinner for two $80). It’s a reinvention of a neighborhood spot, but Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter is a co-owner, and the place is very high-maintenance; I actually have to send a page down to make a reservation in person. Sure, our guests enjoy the food, but they're more excited about being surrounded by an A-list crowd.”
Dim Sum Deal “It can be a challenge to find a place in Chinatown that has a decent atmosphere but is still authentic. One that manages to do all that is Dim Sum Go Go (5 E. Broadway; 212/732-0797; lunch for two $40). The interior is modern and bright, and everything, from the roast pork buns to the shrimp rolls, is fresh and yummy.”
Top Shop “To the experienced shopper who has done Madison Avenue and all the big department stores, I say, 'Go to Nolita.’ I particularly like Rebecca Taylor (260 Mott St.; 212/966-0406). Her dresses are feminine yet edgy, sophisticated yet whimsical. They are also very flattering to the figure.”
Get Your Fill “A really reasonable, charming Village experience that I love is Camaje (85 MacDougal St.; 212/673-8184; dinner for two $70), a tiny French-American bistro. And the chef-owner Abigail Hitchcock gives cooking classes—from Italian to French to Asian.”
Designers at a Discount “Gabay’s Outlet (225 First Ave.; 212/254-3180), in the East Village, carries overstock from department stores like Bergdorf Goodman. Soiffer Haskin (317 W. 33rd St.; www.soifferhaskin.com) is a showroom that puts on sample sales for brands like Paul Stuart and Loro Piana; for the schedule, look on their Web site.”
Adam Chapin, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
Background A former Japanese studies major, then a guest services officer at the Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi, Chapin, 27, was recruited for his fluency in Japanese and understanding of local customs.
Sushi from the Source “Get to the Tsukiji fish market by 5:30 a.m. to see the massive tuna auction, then have breakfast at the 150-year-old Sushi Bun (No. 8, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3541-3860; breakfast for two $45), where a meal will cost you a fraction of what you’d spend in the Ginza district. Their menu changes daily, but the dish that they are most famous for is anago (sea eel). Do as locals do and have a beer or a sake with your sushi breakfast. It’s a great way to start the day.”
Escape the Chaos “Tokyo is quieter than other large cities. Still, the sheer number of cars, trains, and people can be exhausting. That’s why I love the peaceful and often overlooked Asakura Sculpture Hall (7-18-10 Yanaka, Taito-ku; 81-3/3821-4549), the former house and studio of Fumio Asakura. The outside is stark, black, and modern, but inside there are traditional tatami-mat rooms filled with mother-of-pearl–inlaid lacquer tables and the brushes and chisels Asakura used to make his sculptures. Explore the elegant wooden walkways around the inner water garden.”
Go Underground “Taxis are really expensive, but the subway system is not as difficult to navigate as people think. The maps seem overwhelming, but there are English signs in every station. That said, don’t use the subway before nine a.m. Rush hour in Tokyo is crazy.”
Shop Locally “Savvy guests don’t want to go to the stores they can see in any city. For smaller boutiques and cool Japanese clothing lines I send them to the Daikanyama district, near Shibuya. Everyone loves the designs of Tsumori Chisato (11-1-1F Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, 81-3/5728-3225). She used to work for Issey Miyake, but Chisato’s clothes are much more feminine, with bright colors and intricate patterns.”
Ramen 101 “I recommend Jangara Ramen (1-7-7 Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku; 81-3/3281-0701; lunch for two $25) because this chain has menus in English but isn’t touristy. Ramen is all about the toppings: bamboo shoots, fish eggs, and pork slices. And why do the Japanese slurp their noodles loudly?It’s not rude—it’s supposed to enhance the flavor.”
Buzz Alert “Japan is an incubator for unusual trends. One of the latest is the Maid Café, several of which have popped up all over the Akihabara district. These are just cafés, except all the waitresses are dressed up like French maids! When you walk in, they say, 'Welcome back, master.'”
Michael Hopf, Hotel Baltschug Kempinski, Moscow
Background Trained in Berlin, St. Moritz, and other cities throughout Europe, German native Hopf, 29, uses demanding service standards and a never-say-never outlook to help guests get the best out of Moscow.
Must-see Museum “Everyone wants to visit the Pushkin Museum or the Tretyakov Gallery, but people tend to overlook the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (25 Ul. Petrovka; 7-495/694-2890). It’s never crowded and it has excellent Russian paintings from avant-gardists like Ivan Puni and Vladimir Baranov-Rossiné. There’s a spacious courtyard filled with some modern sculptures, which is a nice contrast to the 18th-century building.”
Beluga for Less “For caviar shopping, I send guests to Dorogomilovsky Market (10 Ul. Mozhaysky, Khamovniki), a massive food market about 20 minutes from the center of town. The quality of the caviar is quite good and you can actually taste it before they put it in the tin. The prices are fantastic, about $120 for a pound of beluga.”
Hottest Table “Nedalny Vostok (15 Tverskoi Bul.; 7-495/694-0641; dinner for two $160), which means 'not-far-East,’ just opened in January. The room is slick and modern, but warm. The menu focuses on Russian-Asian fusion food; there’s an open stainless-steel kitchen and an aquarium filled with giant crabs—their specialty. And it’s not fancy; the Russian crowd will be wearing designer jeans with jackets.”
Beyond Borscht “For reasonably priced authentic ethnic food, try Uzbekistan (29/14 Ul. Neglinnaya; 7-495/623-0585; dinner for two $80). They serve Uzbek, Arab, and Chinese food in an ornate, Oriental-style space that looks like a Persian palace.”
Vodka Source “A lot of the nightclubs have something called 'face control,’ where they will only let you in if you are attractive or have tons of money. One place that is easier to get into and less expensive is Vodka Bar (18B Ul. Lva Tolstogo; 7-495/246-9669; cocktails for two $20). They have an incredible selection, including brands that are hard to find in America, like Kristall and Nemiroff. To fit in, sip your vodka straight.”
Hardest Day Yet “Two Russian clients came in and wanted to go to the World Cup semifinal in Germany—the next day. It was a mad rush, but in the end, they spent about $6,500 for tickets and another $20,000 for the plane. Sometimes price is no object—it’s just about getting it done.”