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Hotel Nikko San Francisco: Calm and Cosseting in the City Center

Hotel Nikko San Francisco entrance PHOTO Matthew Millman
Hotel Nikko San Francisco entrance PHOTO Matthew Millman

By Monique Burns

In hotels, as in real estate, location is everything.  Take the Hotel Nikko San Francisco, a luxurious AAA four-diamond property two blocks from downtown Union Square, two blocks from the city’s signature cable cars, five blocks from the Moscone Convention Center, and three blocks from Powell Street’s BART train station, which whisks visitors to San Francisco’s international airport in just 30 minutes.

A superb downtown location is only one of Hotel Nikko’s many charms.  A 25-story, contemporary-style high-rise, with 510 rooms and 22 suites, Hotel Nikko has an acclaimed restaurant, three bars, a 24-hour fitness center with hot tub, steam room and sauna, and a glassed-in solarium with a 50-foot-long Olympic-size pool.  There’s a cavernous ballroom, 22,000 square feet of meeting space, and a UPS business center where you can rent computers, printers and cell phones, make color copies, print reports and ship packages. Also on site: A hair salon, gift shop and ATM machine.  If you’re heading to L.A. for business or to the Napa Valley for wine-tasting, the World Travel Assistance agency and Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car are both on the premises. Last but not least, the hotel is home to Feinstein’s at the Nikko, the popular nightclub of award-winning entertainer and hotel partner Michael Feinstein.

Despite its size, busy location and countless facilities, Hotel Nikko somehow manages to be an intimate oasis of calm. Leave behind the bustling streets of San Francisco, enter under the glass-and-steel awning, head to the spacious, marble-columned lobby on the second-floor level, and you’re immediately enveloped in peace.  Some say peacefulness is part of Hotel Nikko’s pedigree.  Operated by Japanese company Nikko Hotels International, the San Francisco property does exude an unmistakable Zen.  Service is so smooth and seamless that you’ll feel as if you’ve stumbled onto a parallel universe, one where peace and order reign supreme.

Suite at Hotel Nikko San Francisco PHOTO Matthew Millman
Suite at Hotel Nikko San Francisco PHOTO Matthew Millman

Relaxing retreats, the guest rooms have comfortable, low-key furnishings in restful beige tones with serene blue or soft green accents. Made to the hotel’s exacting specifications by the Simmons Co., the pillow-top beds, with ultra-thick mattresses, are called Subarashii Yume, a Japanese term meaning “wonderful dreams.”  And, oh, what dreams you’ll have!  With beds swathed in down comforters, and sheets by Frette—the Milan company that has supplied European royalty for more than a century—you’ll want to climb in early and sleep late.  If you decide to read before drifting off to dreamland, you’ll find perfectly positioned bedside reading lights.   Along with high-speed Wi-Fi, all guest rooms have minibars, coffee makers, hair dryers and safes.  If you want to press a shirt or slacks—without calling the hotel dry-cleaning service—irons and ironing boards are tucked away in your mirrored closet. There’s even video check out.

All those amenities are standard in Hotel Nikko rooms.  Book a Nikko Floor room, on the 20th or 21st floors, and you’ll also get free Wi-Fi, nightly turn-down service and fabulous San Francisco views.  Spring for an even swankier Imperial Floor room, on the 22nd-24th floors, and you’ll get private elevator access, plus more complimentary extras, including local phone calls, plush terrycloth robes and slippers, daily continental breakfast, and a nightly wine and cheese reception in the Imperial Club Lounge.  You’ll also get free access to the hotel fitness center (normally $25 per stay).

Why not ramp up the pleasure and book one of the Imperial Floor’s suites? Each offers a spacious residential-style living room with upholstered easy chairs, a long couch and a refreshment center, a separate bedroom with miles of closets, and a large and luxurious marble bathroom with a whirlpool tub, Rainforest-style shower, and flat-screen VIBE TV built right into the mirror.  View San Francisco’s landmarks from acres of wraparound windows.  Whether you choose a room or a suite, expect plenty of cosseting.  Superb service is at the core of Subarashii Omoide, Nikko’s philosophy of “creating fantastic memories” for guests.

Restaurant ANZU at Hotel Nikko San Francisco PHOTO Matthew Millman
Restaurant ANZU at Hotel Nikko San Francisco PHOTO Matthew Millman

On the hotel’s second level, just above the spacious lobby, more memories are made at Restaurant ANZU, a soothing space with black walls, black glass chandeliers, black-and-white tables and chairs, green accents and a stunning orchid-emblazoned carpet.  No mere hotel eatery, ANZU is a superb restaurant in its own right. Using the finest local products, Executive Chef Philippe Striffeler—who hails from Switzerland and trained in top European kitchens—creates California Cuisine that’s inspired by the Far East and virtually every other corner of the globe. (Read Monique Burns’ complete review of ANZU here.)

 

Whether breakfasting on Anzu Eggs Benedict with sushi rice cakes wrapped in Serrano ham and covered with wasabi-infused Hollandaise sauce, lunching on braised short ribs paired with eringi mushrooms, celery-root puree and Brussels sprouts, or dining on Macadamia Nut Crusted King Salmon with Balinese black rice, wasabi and beurre blanc, ANZU delights, even dazzles, the palate.

Enjoy craft cocktails with top-shelf liquors and liqueurs, as well as Japanese and domestic sakes, and wines from California, Europe and Australia.  Sample international, as well as domestic, beers, including famous Anchor Steam, brewed in San Francisco since 1896, and the restaurant’s own ANZU BRU, with hints of kaffir lime and ginger, which debuted in 2014.  At ANZU, food and drink conjure up every part of the world, and the resulting fusion is utterly out of this world.

Feinstein's at the Nikko showroom PHOTO Matthew Millman
Feinstein’s at the Nikko showroom PHOTO Matthew Millman

If you’d really like to make a night of it, book tickets for the after-dinner show at Feinstein’s at the Nikko, just off the downstairs lobby.  Amid Hotel Nikko’s Zen-like serenity, Feinstein’s at the Nikko is a cozy little corner of Las Vegas.  With a small stage bathed in purple light, cabaret-style seating at small round tables and plush banquettes, and chandeliers and miniature table lamps with cute little shades, Feinstein’s looks like a 1950s supper club.  But the intimate 140-seat nightclub is anything but old hat.  Michael Feinstein, the multi Emmy and Grammy Award-nominated entertainer, performs there at least 12 times a year, focusing on the “Great American Songbook.”  Whether you’re 22 or 92, you’ll love humming along to timeless favorites like “Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” and “Rhapsody in Blue,” plus other standards like “Embraceable You,” “Come Fly with Me” and “Love is Here to Stay.”

When Feinstein isn’t at his namesake club, other top acts, including soul, jazz and rhythm-and-blues artists, comedians and impressionists, and performers from Broadway musicals and Hollywood films, take the stage. Shows—Wednesday through Sunday, and occasionally Saturday night and Sunday afternoon—cost $25-$85, depending on the act, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.  If you’re expecting guests, they’ll appreciate the free hour of valet parking for showgoers, and two free hours for dinner and the show.

During the performance, savor excellent, but reasonably priced, food and drink.  Order wines, sakes, beers, and mixed drinks, including craft cocktails like Chipotle Cabaret (with Hangar 1 Chipotle Vodka, Thai basil leaves, lime juice and organic agave nectar), and  Strawberry Fields (Tanqueray Gin, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur and fresh strawberries). Or choose a non-alcoholic lavender, blood orange or cucumber sparkling drink from Seattle-based DRY Soda Co. “Mocktails” range from the well-known Shirley Temple to the lesser-known Orgeat Fresh, with lemon juice, basil leaf, and orgeat, organic French almond syrup made locally by Small Hand Foods.

If you get peckish, Feinstein’s Showroom Menu has appetizers like spicy pineapple-and-mango salsa with chips, tempura-fried prawns and three-cheese risotto.  The heartier Feinstein Style Bento Box offers a choice of three other appetizers, plus a choice of three entrees, including pan-roasted Atlantic salmon, and tortellini with black truffles and tomato coulis.  Desserts are tiramisu, chocolate cake with strawberry sauce and New York-style cheesecake. Like many nightclubs, Feinstein’s has a cover charge, but it’s only $20 per person with a reasonable 18% gratuity added to each check.

Kanpai Lounge PHOTO Matthew Millman
Kanpai Lounge PHOTO Matthew Millman

After the show, while away the evening in next-door Kanpai Lounge, another slice of Vegas with black, white and red Postmodern wing chairs, glass chandeliers, ornate mirrors and fuchsia wall coverings.  After the Friday or Saturday night show, tune into “Sake & Sound,” an evening of drink specials and deep-house music by a local DJ.  If you don’t know what “deep- house” music is, just order a craft cocktail or snack from the big bar menu, and go with the flow.

When it’s time for bed, you’ll be delighted that your room is only an elevator ride away.  Swaddled in silky-smooth Frette sheets, and a cloud-like down comforter, you and your beloved can anticipate a long and memorable night of Subarashii Yume.  That’s Japanese for pleasant dreams, courtesy of Hotel Nikko San Francisco.

IF YOU GO

Hotel Nikko San Francisco. 222 Mason St., San Francisco, CA 94102; telephone 415-394-1111 or toll-free 866- NIKKO-SF; www.hotelnikkosf.com.  For Restaurant ANZU, call 415-394-1100 or visit www.restaurantanzu.com.  For Feinstein’s at the Nikko, call toll-free 855-636-4556 or 855-MF-NIKKO, or log on to www.feinsteinssf.com.

 

Monique Burns is a longtime travel writer and editor, and a European Correspondent for Jax Fax Magazine, a travel magazine for U.S. travel agents.  A former Travel & Leisure Senior Editor, she travels frequently to Europe, but can sometimes be found in far-flung locales like India and Asia.  After more than 30 years in the travel business, she still appreciates the world’s many cultural differences and can honestly say that she’s never met a place she didn’t like.
Monique Burns is a longtime travel writer and editor, and a European Correspondent for Jax Fax Magazine, a travel magazine for U.S. travel agents. A former Travel & Leisure Senior Editor, she travels frequently to Europe, but can sometimes be found in far-flung locales like India and Asia. After more than 30 years in the travel business, she still appreciates the world’s many cultural differences and can honestly say that she’s never met a place she didn’t like.
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