The newly renovated ONE UN at One UN Plaza New York, located at East 44th Street between First and Second Avenues, close to the East River and across from the UN building, is a modern respite from the hustle bustle of downtown NYC. In September, the Millennium property is exclusively booked for UN delegates, but the general public can stay there at any other time. I was enchanted with the European design and neutral colors of international hotel designer Grace Leo, along with the high-end Chinese Shanghai Tang bath products, and personal Nespresso machine.
My room overlooked Midtown with views of the classic Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station. Since the guest rooms start on the 29th floor, there is not a bad view in sight, and if you are booked in the East Tower, the views are over the East River and Roosevelt Island. Guests staying in the West Tower have complimentary buffet breakfast and wifi on the 30th floor in the Skyline Club, where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are served in the evening. ONE UN boasts the only indoor tennis court of any NY hotel and has an indoor pool and workout facility. Thirty seems to be a significant number for ONE UN, as the amiable staff speaks 30 different languages and the West Tower renovation cost $30 million! Future plans include a new restaurant, lobby and a complete renovation of the East Tower.
A highlight for me was seeing the onsite Labrador retrievers! I loved the friendly UN security guards that always have a welcoming yellow, chocolate, or black Labrador as special agents.
I did a tour of the UN which I am ashamed to admit was my first. It is incredible to see and access this monumental workspace where some of the most important peace keeping decisions in the world are made. The lobby has interesting artifacts and gifts from nations around the world. I especially enjoyed seeing a replica of “Sputnik” hanging from the ceiling, and was surprised at how small the first satellite was. There are also beautiful tapestries, paintings and sculptures. A stained glass wall made by the artist Marc Chagall, a gift from France, a beautiful gold boat from Thailand and an intricate weaving from Nepal are some of the worldly treasures to behold. A bit on the “kitschy” side are the velvet portraits of the UN Secretary Generals that go back to the first one from 1945! The guided tour costs $16 for adults and $9 for children. The first one starts at 9:45 and the last at 4:45. The UN Plaza encompasses 6 blocks but the tour is only in the UN Assembly building. Starting in June of 2013, the public will be able to have a buffet lunch along with the delegates in the Delegate’s Dining Room.
The international essence of New York is so apparent in this neighborhood with the proximity of countless restaurants that offer authentic dining experiences from around the world. We chose Soba Totto Soba and Yakitori Bar on 43 rd Street between Second and Third Avenue. A restaurant that does not call out to one from the street, but once inside, you are transported straight to Tokyo. The atmosphere is authentically Japanese as was the delicious food, apparent by the mainly Japanese clientele. We started out with an array of appetizers from the freshest Sashimi to a homemade delicate tofu that was served with three accompaniments – ginger, dried smoked bonito flakes, salt and scallions. Next came a giant mound of fresh tuna tartar (Tuna Tar) with a soft-boiled egg on top– unusual and delicious. Then, hot appetizers – vegetables in a light tempura batter, chicken meatballs with sticky rice, tomatoes wrapped in bacon and beef yakitori. And of course, traditional buckwheat soba noodles. The soba master at Soba Totto was trained in Japan. All the while we were tasting the national spirit of Japan – Shochu, not to be confused with the national spirit of Korea – Soju. Shochu is a single distillate made from various grains, with different aromas. Depending on the age, the Shochu has different flavors and alcohol percentage. We tried the Iichiko Shochu which is from barley and very subtlety influenced with hints of rosemary. The different types of Shochu can be made from sweet potato, barley or rice.
It is known for its “mellow buzz” and has 1/3 the calories of vodka and less alcohol content. The Iichiko Kurobin Shochu comes in a black earthenware jug and is traditionally served in a black earthenware goblet. My favorite Shochu cocktail “Chuhai” made from yuzu, the Japanese citrus fruit (a combination of lime and lemon flavors), simple syrup and a sprig of Japanese basil. The jagged leafed basil has a unique flavor.
I finished the weekend with an audio tour of nearby iconic Grand Central Station ($7 adults) and a cocktail (the Prohibition Punch) at The Campbell Apartment, a classic bar, once the private apartment of Railroad Tycoon John W. Campbell. It is restored to its 1920’s opulence and is secretly tucked into a corner of the upstairs mezzanine of Grand Central.
My cosmopolitan weekend in New York was entertaining, educational, luxurious, and super convenient, thanks to the proximity of ONE UN to Grand Central Station and Metro North.