Food-and-drink minimums and occasional cover charges in jazz club
No coffeemakers in rooms or coffee in the lobby
Immediate Murray Hill location largely devoid of shopping, dining, or nightlife
Located on an especially quiet, residential strip of snazzy Park Avenue in Murray Hill, the Japanese-owned, 149-room Kitano's appeal is in the details -- in-room towel warmers, soundproof windows, heated toilet seats, and impeccable service. It's a fine hotel, but for the price it's also worth considering the nearby IBEROSTAR 70 Park Avenue and The Court hotels.
Quiet, serene, Japanese-owned hotel with large rooms and impeccable service
Opened in 1973, the Japanese-owned Kitano was formerly the Murray Hill Hotel, owned by the Rockefellers. Mr. Kitano overhauled the 19th-century property and transformed it into a hotel that balances Western design with Eastern hospitality. Japanese decor is kept to a minimum -- only the hotel restaurant, Hakubai, and one suite, the Tatami Suite, feature traditional design elements like bamboo furniture and shoji (paper windows) -- but it's in the service and ambience that Japanese sensibility is prevalent. The wide, open lobby is hushed, save for the light strains of classical music. The staff speaks in soft tones and is very polite. Symmetry and serenity are the overarching themes of this hotel, making it a peaceful and modern retreat in midtown Manhattan.
Art is an integral element of the Kitano. In the middle of the lobby sits a bronze sculpture of a dog by prominent sculptor Fernando Botero. Its tongue is tarnished from countless guests who have rubbed it for good fortune. "It's our hotel mascot," the management explained. "It's the first thing that came into this hotel when it was built."
The Kitano is not a celebrity-hot-spot hotel. The mellow scene is more catered to business travelers, families, and wedding groups. The large suites are ideal for big groups, and occasionally wedding receptions are held at the 18th-floor banquet hall. Live jazz is on nightly at the lounge, bringing in locals from the neighborhood.
Amid residential high-rises in quiet Murray Hill, just south of the business centers of Midtown East
The Kitano is in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. It's centrally located, south of Midtown East, so reaching downtown and Midtown is relatively easy. This makes it a solid choice for business travelers, especially those needing to reach offices in Midtown. The hotel is three blocks from Grand Central Terminal which connects to the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines, as well as the shuttle to Times Square. Cabs can also easily be hailed right in front of the hotel.
Directly beside the hotel is Scandinavia House, which has exhibits, film screenings, and design products from Scandinavia. Its popular cafe, Smorgas Chef, is worth a visit. Apart from the other upscale hotels nearby, such as IBEROSTAR 70 Park Avenue, this is a particularly quiet section of Murray Hill. There are numerous restaurants nearby, especially on Madison Avenue (one block west).
Large rooms with carefully planned features, such as towel warmers and double-glazed windows that eliminate outside noise
Standard rooms (called Superior Rooms, with one king bed or two double beds) are 305 square feet, which is a good bit larger than most standard rooms in New York City. There are 11 total room and suite categories, ranging in size from the 305-square-foot Superiors to 805-square-foot Townhouse Suites. All suites have separate living rooms. The Japanese-style Tatami Suite, also 805 square feet, has tatami mats, futons, and shoji doors. Note that there's only one Tatami Suite.
The hotel sees its share of Japanese guests, so it does its part to provide for their needs: minibars are stocked with Japanese and American products, bathrooms feature Toto toilets with heated seats, and Japanese green tea and small water heaters are available in every room. Other features include down comforters and pillow-top mattresses, soundproof windows that shut out any outside noise (which isn't much in this residential neighborhood), and 37- to 42-inch flat-screen TVs with premium cable, as well as Japanese channels. USA Today and Asahi (a Japanese daily) newspapers are delivered at no extra charge.
Coffeemakers and ironing equipment are not provided. In-room Wi-Fi is available for a fee. Rollaway beds are available for a nightly fee, but they do not fit in standard (Superior) rooms; all other room types can accommodate them. Cribs are free, and babysitting services can be arranged through the concierge.
Live jazz every night and elevated Japanese dining
The hotel's jazz club, Jazz at Kitano, offers Pan-Asian and new American fusion cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Live musicians play every night (the schedule includes open jams and piano nights), but guests should be sure to find out about set times, possible cover charges, and food-and-drink minimums. Jazz at Kitano's Sunday Jazz Brunch is popular, but note that there is only one seating. The upscale Hakubai serves traditional Japanese cuisine for lunch and dinner; kaiseki and a la carte are available, as is private dining in the tatami rooms.
There isn't a fitness center, but the hotel offers complimentary passes to New York Sports Club on Madison Avenue and 36th Street, which is about a five-minute walk away. Wi-Fi is free in the lobby (but incurs a charge in rooms). Use of the computers and printers in the business center also requires a fee. The hotel's beautiful rooftop terrace is not accessible to guests unless they are attending a conference or a special event in the top-floor penthouse.
There is a full-service concierge fluent in both Japanese and English. As this hotel gets wedding groups as well as business travelers, concierge services range from making salon appointments to contacting a notary public, and getting Broadway tickets isn't a problem.
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