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Henn na Hotel Review

by Ron Bernthal

Jan 5, 2022

© Ron Bernthal

eFlyer Reviews

Set among traditional Irish bars, Asian eateries, trendy coffee shops and several historic Garment District dress shops on West 35th Street in Manhattan, the 92-room Henn na Hotel New York is a new (October 2021), Japanese-owned boutique hotel attracting much attention from business travelers, local NYC-suburban residents looking for a weekend getaway and international tourists seeking a conveniently located, inexpensive hotel for a week or more in the Big Apple.

The hotel is owned by Japan’s Henn na Hotel Group, which runs 20 Henn na hotels throughout Japan. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, in 2015 Henn na became the first hotel chain in the world to use robots as part of the staff. The robots replaced humans in different hotel positions, like front desk check-in, and became a conversation topic for a few years. But the chain eliminated its robotic workforce after the experience failed to reduce costs or staff workload. At the time, the chain’s founder, Hideo Sawada, expressed his hope a Henn-na robotic hotel would bring the hospitality industry one step closer to a day when robotic hotels were no longer just novelties, but a way to offer customers more efficient service while counteracting ever increasing room rates.

After staying at the new property recently, I was quite impressed how the hotel’s corporate owner and designers managed to transform the best aspects of Japanese hospitality, efficiency and design into the confines of a 36-year-old, 18-story building in the middle of Manhattan.

I chose the hotel because of its proximity to Pennsylvania Station, just five minutes’ walk, and where I was taking an Amtrak train the following morning. Upon entering the hotel, a guest’s attention is immediately drawn to the right of the small lobby, where a glass cage contains a realistic, six-foot animatronic T-Rex dinosaur, eyes facing the front desk, head moving, sharp teeth bared and growling quite loud through a speaker system. Except for the hotel’s Japanese guests, it appears most check-ins, myself included, were not aware Henn na hotels in Japan are known for welcoming guests in a similar fashion, a leftover tradition from the chain’s robotic age. It is, at first, a somewhat heart-stopping surprise, but after a few visits to the lobby the Henn na T-Rex hardly draws a stare.

Although guestrooms are on the small side — this is Manhattan after all — I liked that all the rooms are built for efficiency and comfort. Using a mobile key, I was immediately attracted to the muted beige and brown color scheme, the solid blond wood furniture, the compact stainless-steel fridge with a glass door, and the recessed lights behind the king bed. Providing Kassatex linens, slippers and kimono-style waffle robes was also appreciated.

Within a smallish bathroom the designers were able include a great feature, the famous Toto Washlet, the stylish, Japanese-branded smart toilet ubiquitous throughout Japan. Bigelow lime- and coriander-scented bath amenities were found in the shower. WiFi is available throughout the hotel, including on the streaming TV. An LG Styler Steam Closet is in every guestroom, a unique amenity that steams and refreshes clothing, minimizing the need for dry cleaning. Suites include a deep-soaking tub, a small balcony and a pull-out sofa.

The hotel’s on-site restaurant, Gosuke, is located on the first floor, and offers Japanese cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Some American dishes are available as well. This pleasant and quirky little gem is run by noted chef Isami Nagai. Gosuke also offers excellent sushi and sashimi at its small bar, with a variety of sake and Japanese beers. Chef Nagai has 35 years’ experience overseeing the kitchens in some of the best Japanese restaurants in Tokyo and New York.

In addition to its proximity to Pennsylvania Station and the new Moynihan Train Hall (both connected to Madison Square Garden), Henn na is within walking distance to the Empire State Building, Hudson Yards, High Line Park, Times Square and the Broadway Theater District.

Henn na Hotel

235 W. 35th St.
New York, NY 10001
tel 212 729 4366

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