Rainy Days in the BIG Apple


While California has been in the grip of a heat wave this week, the walking city was experiencing torrential downpour and the early touch of unrelenting cold snaps.  Thankfully the rain stopped in the latter part of the week. But Sunday afternoon was still windy and cold.  And I heard that it can be freakishly cold during winter. This season sure sounds like a real test of my survival skills.

When rainy days hit, I always find it hard to leave the hotel. Eventually, I got really bored of staying at the hotel and needed to think to be somewhere else – hotel hopping that’s it! The rain provided me a very timely event.

On Tuesday, 28 September Brian Honan, Director of Marketing and Sales, of the luxurious New York Palace Hotel invited me for a scrumptious lunch and a hotel site inspection.  Brian has been a great help in responding to my multiple inquiries and requests prior to arriving in NY and also in accommodating my friends, Susan & Michelle, from Australia during the week of UN General Assembly meeting.  It was really a pleasure meeting him in person – what a gracious person to deal with!  –  Photos courtesy of New York Palace

Grand Lobby Staircase                                                                     Hotel Courtyard


Hotel Club Lounge                                                                       Hotel Towers Modern King Guest Room

The New York Palace is centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, 455 Madison Avenue.  To get into the hotel, you’ll have the options of taking the 51st or 50th streets entrances.  When checking in and for convenience, however you are best to enter via the 50th Street entrance.  From the hotel, you’ll have the luxury to shop until you drop at 5th and Madison Avenue.  Just block away from the shopping streets are the famous Rockefeller Centre and the Time Square – definitely the place where you can feel the buzz and vibrancy of a more cosmopolitan atmosphere.  And if you want a relaxing stroll, you can wander around Central Park – the most visited Public Park in the US frequented by millions of tourists every year from the lone wanderer to the social gazelle.

The Palace offers three choices of accommodations:  Superior, Club and Towers.  All of the rooms present a spectacular view of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Hudson River.  For a Manhattan 4-star hotel standard room space, the rooms in the Palace are relatively bigger and better.

Superior rooms are ideal for twin share where double beds are available providing an extra room and comfort.  The Club rooms are spectacular and are ideal for couples and business travellers.  All rooms are located on higher floors and guests have access to the Towers Club lounge on the 39th floor.  Here you can savour the food and beverages offerings, or simply relax and enjoy the breathtaking and spectacular views of St Patrick’s Cathedral and the city skyline.

We then moved to the more stunning part of the hotel – the Tower rooms which occupy its top 14 floors.  It feels like a separate hotel within a hotel. The rooms here are ideal for travellers whose desire is ultimate privacy as it offers separate access.  It even has a separate reception area and a dedicated concierge.  Tower rooms offer a choice of modern or classic rooms and also feature suites.  If you are looking for a luxurious type of accommodation equipped with full kitchen, the Towers is certainly the place for you. Even the kitchen offers a spectacular view of the city skyline.  The suites would be ideal for business travellers conducting interview(s) as it offers a separate and spacious living area with a separate powder room.

I just love the options that the Palace offers for meetings and events.  All rooms present elegance and sophistication.  My favourite is The Madison Room.  Your guests will surely enjoy the preserved historic décor of the pallid beauty of the marble columns, in particular.  This venue is ideal for weddings.

Susan & Michelle shared to me that you can literally request whatever you want for your room:  from a kettle to a mini fridge.  Just call the housekeeping and they will bring you what you wish. If you need a hotel with pure elegance and a touch of neo-Italian Renaissance tradition style, and a prime location in Manhattan, The New York Palace is the place to be. This hotel is one of the luxurious Dorchester Collection.

After that breath-taking tour of the New York Palace Hotel, I had a chance to dine at Nobu on Wednesday, 29th September as a thank you treat from Sam, Travis, Susan and Michelle for arranging their accommodations both at The New York Palace Hotel and Flatotel.

I had set high expectations for Nobu.  But between Nobu and Blue Ribbon, I am still convinced that the Blue Ribbon offers better value and provides excellent customer service.  The ambience at Nobu was not inviting which was rather disappointing considering its reputable name.  It was noisy and dark and you need to turn on your mobile in order to read the menu.  For the quality and flavours, Blue Ribbon is still my first pick.

Eating out in New York is a food lover’s dream, but choosing a place to eat and keeping your meal budget on track is rather more exciting with each restaurant offering a unique set of mouth-watering dishes. There are hundreds of places that you can enjoy delicious meals for under $10 with drinks/taxes included and not worrying about tips.  And after witnessing the President of the Philippines on the news, enjoying a bite of a hotdog sandwich from a cart at a NY city sidewalk during his visit, I was convinced to explore the food street carts and stalls in the city as well.

Alas! I found myself the best and cheapest food fix. I was totally amazed by the people who patiently wait in a long serpentine line to savour the finest lamb or chicken halal on this food stall/cart located on the corner of W 53rd St and 6th Ave. This is indeed the busiest halal corner store in Manhattan – day, night or early in the morning.   Sam and Travis rated this as their favourite food fix when inebriated but this is also as good as when you’re sober. They offer a cheap and quick lunch or early dinner fix for $6. You also have an option of having it in a sandwich wrap or on a platter and it comes with a salad, slices of pita bread and some rice.  The white sauce adds perfection to this appetising meal. This is simply our most enjoyed junk food to savour for both from a starving tummy or hangover fix experience. Our hotel being conveniently around the corner from this food stall is a big bonus and it’s also open until 5am.

And if you want a cheap and delectable “modified Mexican” delight, your best option is the Chipotle Mexican Grill.  It is a Mac Donald owned burrito food chain.  You can make your own mix by having rice, burrito or crispy tacos and a choice of chicken, steak or pork along with additional Mexican condiments.  Don’t be concerned when you see a line, as food service preparation is promptly done.  It is so quick that sometimes you don’t have the time to choose which meal combo to order.  Prices start from $7.35.  The best part is you can refill your cup with soft drinks free of charge.  Taking orders and paying from your iPhone is also conveniently available.

If you want something on the healthier version of fast foods, my recommendation is the Chop’t Salad, which is basically made up of chopped romaine lettuce. Ordering at Chop’t is simple and only entails three steps:

Step 1.   Choose your greens
Step 2.   Choose up to 4 ingredients
Step 3.   Choose your dressing

The choppers work their magic with a mezzaluna that is rather entertaining to watch.  My favourite is the grilled Angus steak with spinach and the recommended steakhouse blue cheese dressing.  You can order using any possible topping they have on their menu. Chop’t salads start from $6.95 and their salad sandwiches start from $5.95.

Another great value for money if you are into oriental foods is Yip’s located on the 52 W of 52nd Street. Sam raved about this place for the great value and varieties.  Ideal for hassle free and quick pick up lunch.  There is a $5 Rice or Noodle Super Special meal after 3:30pm – a perfect late lunch treat.  The other meals on the menu range from $5.95 to $6.25 with selection of side orders from $1.50 to $2.00.

I culminated my Sunday evening following a nice afternoon walk at Central Park by trying out another restaurant in Upper West side – the Fatty Crab. The Fatty Crab is a Malaysian restaurant located on Broadway corner 79th Street. We were joined by Claire and her friend Anu.  We met Claire, who lives nearby the restaurant, at Ivan’s CD release party.  The food is not close to the usual Malaysian foods I had in the past but I personally enjoyed the selection of dishes we ordered.

One thing I didn’t like about this place was the music – it was simply playing too loud. Even after we politely asked our server twice to turn down the noise level, the music was still too loud that any form of social interaction was impossible.  The only memorable and interesting thing about the place is the toilet.  Within seconds after I walked into the toilet, I heard a sound of a coughing old man.  I listened carefully to work out where the sound was coming from.  I looked up the ceiling and noticed strange old black & white posters pasted and noticed a black speaker attached to the corner of the ceiling.  I was curious so I stood for a little longer and in about a minute the sound changed to a crying baby, followed by growling cows, then to an old car engine starting and so it goes on. When I walked out I said to myself… ‘that was strange’  still trying to recuperate from the rather baffling experience.

Tipping is widely practiced in the U.S.  This practice, however becomes frustrating when services are not good. Tipping is not only done in restaurants but also in hotels, cafe, taxis, etc.  It is based on a percentage (and this usually falls within the 10%-20% range) and is customarily computed on the bill’s total before tax.

My tip for this week is “don’t’ forget to tip” and check the bill as some restaurants include their expected tip on it.  You don’t want to double up the tip!

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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