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Off the Lot: Mandarin Oriental Celebrates a Decade in Tokyo, New Opening in Milan

Staying at a five-star luxury hotel is meant to be an experience, even if it’s for a business trip, and the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year ranks as one of the best in the world — and one of the chain’s standout properties.

Towering 38 stories above the city, providing stunning views of Shinjuku and the Imperial Palace, as well as of Tokyo’s perpetually blinking red lights at night, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, the Cesar Pelli-designed hotel reflects themes of wood and water with 178 large guest rooms, impeccable spa and a unique collection of restaurants, including a pizza bar, that branch out from the sky lobby like a living tree.

“We have views of the entire city from our guest rooms, be it North, South, East or West, as well as perhaps one of the largest (number) of individual restaurants in any Mandarin Oriental,” which has helped attract business travelers but also Hollywood’s executives and celebrities since its opening, says Anthony Costa, general manager of Mandarin Oriental Tokyo.

The MO Tokyo’s location — on the city’s version of 5th Avenue, in the Nihonbashi district, near Ginza — is also the name of the hotel’s signature, vodka-based cocktail, the “Nihonbashi” ($17.35), created by Yukiyo Kurihara, bar manager of the Oriental Lounge. It features Belvedere vodka, Dover yuzu, Midori, Blue Curaçao and grapefruit juice, and has been on the hotel’s menu since its doors opened.

“Being a gateway city, Tokyo was appealing to Mandarin Oriental as it would establish our brand in the home of the second-largest economy at the time,” Costa says. “As the group set out its goal to having 10,000 rooms globally, the opportunity to have a hotel in Tokyo and in one of the most famous districts made sense.”

During Your Stay: In addition to spending time enjoying the scenery in the Oriental Lounge, reserve one of Tapas Molecular Bar’s eight seats for a memorable 20-course dinner. The two-hour experience is well worth it.

MO Tokyo has long been a draw for its restaurants. When it partnered with Danish eatery Noma and its chef Rene Redzepi for a limited residency, the hotel ended up having a waitlist of over 60,000 people. “It truly captured the imagination of not only the Japanese but globally as well as inspired our wonderful colleagues,” Costa says.

As it raises a glass to toast its anniversary in Tokyo, Mandarin Oriental is readying to open a new property in Europe as it shutters one in the U.S.

Featuring Italian decor and signature Asian touches, the 104-room MO Milan, steps from the city’s La Scala opera house, will feature restaurants by two Michelin-starred chef Antonio Guida, and a large spa inside its 19th century home.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the company is bidding farewell to the 11-floor, 158-room financial district highrise it has owned for 27 years — sold to Loews in February.

During Your Stay: In Milan, shop the luxury stores on Via Montenapoleone; in San Francisco, stop by Brasserie S&P, which boasts the largest collection of gins in the city — and perhaps even the country — and sample a flight.

Off the Lot is a regular section covering the latest in travel that runs in the pages of Variety.

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