A NEW NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Written by Bridget Williams / Photography by Robert Rieger courtesy of Aman New York
The Bar Lounge. Artist Peter Gentenaar created the paper and bamboo sculpture that “floats” overhead.
In the City that Never Sleeps, the ebb and flow of hotel openings and closings happen so regularly that they often register as a ripple in the Hudson to those outside the Big Apple bubble. However, when Aman New York opened its doors in August of last year after a series of delays, it made a full cannonball-style splash. With its takeover of the historic Crown Building, Aman New York delivers the peace promised by Aman's Sanskrit-derived name and the palpable tranquility of its Asian roots to a covetable corner of 57th and 5th Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. The stepped skyscraper with a gilded chateau-esque tower, completed in 1921, has long held the distinction of garnering some of the highest rents in the city. The mixed-used building has a fascinating and diverse tenant and ownership roster including being the first site of the MOMA from 1929-1932 in a rented 12th-floor six-room suite. Long-time Aman collaborator Jean-Michel Gathy, a Belgian architect whose three-decade dossier in all-exclusive luxury resort design includes Aman's exquisite Venice property on the Grand Canal, spearheaded the building's renovation. When I tell you this place is magnificent, I mean it. There's a beguiling generosity of space and a harmony of design that instantly envelopes all the senses. Both overt and subtle design elements hearken to the brand's Asian roots. Intended to be a vertical resort, seating in public areas is oriented to keep the gaze inward on the beauty and serenity of surroundings rather than the city's frenetic energy. We found it to be such a haven that throughout our two-night stay, we only (and reluctantly) left the confines of the haute hotel twice: once to meet an old friend for lunch and the other for a long walk in nearby Central Park, as a petite penance for all of our glorious and gluttonous indulging and imbibing at the property's signature restaurants—Arva and Nama—and its subterranean jazz club.
Corner suite living room. Junior suite bathroom.
If you are someone desiring to feel like someone, this is the place for you. A team of attendants awaits at the front door, with more security at the elevator that takes guests up to the reception area on the 14th floor. As soon as the door opens, it's difficult not to be gobsmacked by Aman New York's bold minimalist view of a luxury urban hotel.
Calm, cool, and curated, the lighting design beckons you to want to see what's around the next corner. Fire is a recurring element, and a fireplace in the reception area helped to take the chill off a cold February morning while we completed the check-in process. The reception level is the heart of the hotel and populated with beautiful people from day to night. At present, only residents and registered guests have access to these elevated areas. Still, I can't imagine the powers that be at Aman will be able to fend off the requests for
extended access, particularly in the summer months, when its exquisite 7k square-foot Garden Terrace, replete with extensive landscaping, fire-centered water features, retractable roof, and chic seating areas are fully availed.
The 83 suites are located on the floors beneath the lobby, as well as the spa, which encompasses 25k square feet over three entire floors (more on that later). The attention to detail and lighting extends to the guest rooms and suites, which are colossal by NYC standards. As soon as the door to our room opened, my eye was drawn to the warm glow emanating from a fireplace—a rarity in Manhattan hotel rooms—at the far end of the room between a pair of windows overlooking Bergdorf and the crowds assembled to ogle the animatronic Yayoi Kusama painting her signature polka dots in the window at Louis Vuitton's midtown store. To my left, a wall of handsome cabinetry concealed a generous amount of closet space, a coffee station with beautiful handmade ebony stoneware cups and saucers, and a minibar. On the right, a series of shoji-like screens, softly illuminated from within and mounted on swivel hinges, allowed for a "choose your own entry" into the spa-like bathroom with a low soaking tub and TOTO smart toilet. A clever console inside the door allows bags to be stored out of sight to maintain the feeling of feng shui. Complementing the aesthetic while creating a dramatic focal point encompassing nearly the entire wall opposite the bed was a large-scale art mural on rice paper inspired by the 15th-century masterpiece Pine Trees (Shōrin-zu byōbu) by Hasegawa Tōhaku. After the giddy chatter of our reaction to the room subsided, we were met with something that's often a rarity in big city hotels—complete silence. And, when the inevitable siren did find its way into our cocoon, it was more of a whisper than a wail.
Chef de Cuisine Takuma Yonemaru at Nama, Aman's celebration of Japan's washoku dining tradition.
Having visited five Aman properties, I can now count myself among the "Aman Junkies" club members. As such, the food and beverage program at Aman New York is heads and shoulders above what I've experienced at other Aman properties where the setting and architecture were the scene stealers. Arva is located adjacent to the double-height buzzy Bar Lounge, where sinuous saffron-colored paper and bamboo sculptures that reminded me of a koi fish in motion (but were created by Peter Gentenaar to resemble Oriental lanterns) "float" between four stone columns. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner under the direction of Italian Chef de Cuisine Dario Ossola (whose previous gig was at Aman's Venice property), the Aman brand's signature Italian restaurant Arva pays homage to Italy's rustic, cucina del raccolto tradition with seasonally rotating, elevated comfort food served in refined spaces around a central open kitchen. Arva strives to source seventy-five percent of its ingredients locally via partnerships with Grow NYC and Our Harvest, representing over 750 farmers and managing at least 100 farmer's markets in and around New York City. Lucky for us, it was truffle season during our stay, and we went decidedly non- local, opting to have the fragrant fungi crown nearly every course of our leisurely lunch.
Dramatic cubes of chiseled rock mark the entrance to Nama, Aman's celebration of Japan's washoku dining tradition. Just inside the entry, a Japanese Hinoki wood counter is the site of twice- nightly seatings for a 15-to-18-piece omakase-style fine dining experience. The staggered Complementing Frank Lloyd Wright- inspired ceiling and lighting pendants is a feature work created by local artist Melissa Hart. Chef de Cuisine Takuma Yonemaru's sublime cuisine shines with every course, and we enjoyed sitting at the "kitchen counter," where we ate with our eyes before feasting on everything from sashimi to fork-tender Wagyu sirloin sprinkled with Moshio mineral salt and presented on handcrafted tableware emblematic of the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi. My better half, who has traveled extensively throughout Asia for work, remarked that it was the best Japanese food he'd had outside Japan.
1) The heated pool is the centerpiece of the three-floor Spa at Aman New York. 2) The Jazz Club at Aman New York 3) A double treatment room in a private Spa House.
Attesting to the property's ability to engage and satiate from morning till night is a basement-level speakeasy-style Jazz Club, one of the few venues "slightly" open to the public by reservation and boasting state-of-the-art acoustic technology. The intimate area is populated by crescent-shaped banquettes along the perimeter and tables near the draped stage, where a vintage Steinway sits in residence. Six-time Grammy nominee Brian Newman is the venue's creative director, booking a well-rounded group of acts encompassing contemporary jazz to the Great American Songbook. Live acts preceed late-night DJ sets (which, despite our best intentions were unable to stay awake for). We fully expected the food to be an afterthought, but I am still craving just one more bite of their truffle grilled cheese some four months later. If you are serious about self-care, the sanctuary offered by the vast Aman Spa is for you. At its heart is a 20-meter pool ringed by fabulous cone-style fireplaces and sleek seating areas. En route to your treatment, be sure to check out the boutique, featuring a selection of Aman-branded Goyard-esque leather goods, and Aman's eponymous apparel, skincare products, and fragrances; a whiff of the latter is enough to transport me back into a vacation state of mind. As someone who checks out a hotel's gym on their website prior to booking a stay, the generously sized fitness facility was a dream for a workoutaholic like me with both tried-and-true equipment and high-tech offerings, including an anti-gravity treadmill. Unique to New York City, Aman's indulgent and private Spa Houses, used for full or half-day retreats, offer either a Hamman or a Banya (a wood-clad sauna), in addition to a double treatment room, a living area with fireplace, and a large canopied outdoor terrace with hot and cold plunge pools for an utterly personalized spa experience. My chosen spa treatment, the two-hour Aman New York Signature Journey, focused on the healing, stabilizing, and balancing benefits of the fluorite crystal and, with apologies to Billy Joel, put me in a new New York state of mind that I could easily get used to. sl
For more information about Aman New York, visit aman.com/hotels/aman-new-york.