Arrival/Check-in: The fan logo on top of the Mandarin Oriental is easy to spot from the highway; harder to find on the surface streets. Finally, I made it; and valeted the car because I had no other choice. (Nearly $40 a day — ouch!) When I arrived, the lobby was buzzing with conference attendees so I was pleased and impressed that check-in was very quick and the front desk staff pert and alert. (17/20)
Guest Quarters: My corner Water Premiere Club room overlooked the Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial in one direction; the Washington Monument in the other. Million-dollar views at any time of year, but especially on that clear, autumn day. While Mandarin Oriental is assuredly Asian, each hotel is decorated to reflect its location. So, in traditional Washington, D.C., the color palette is earthy gold and brown and the fabrics range from silk to chinoiserie patterns. The guestroom’s marble shower with its big marble bench and two showerheads — one rainfall, one hand-held — was vast. Ditto the corner tub. Also present: a flat-screen TV, CD player/clock radio and bath amenities by Gilchrist & Soames. (See photo, right.) (15/15)
Services/Amenities: When it opened in 2004, this hotel brought two things to Washington that were in short supply: a full-service spa and a AAA 5-diamond restaurant. Given the time, I could have spent a good long while in the spa’s Amethyst Crystal Steam Room, with its aromatherapy mist, pin-dot ceiling lights and spacious purple- tiled benches. (It’s open only to spa clients.) There’s also a nice, sunlit pool and big fitness center. CityZen is Chef Eric Ziebold’s fine-dining restaurant. Its Asian-influenced menu is so good, even Washingtonians make the trip all the way to Southwest to dine here. Café MoZu is the all-day dining restaurant. The Empress Lounge in the lobby is a great place to meet for coffee, cocktails or one of the hotel’s herbal health drink concoctions; it does a very nice Asian buffet lunch, too. (44/45)
The Experience: Here, you’re just three blocks from the National Mall — a plus for hitting the museums and monuments, you’re surrounded by government office buildings and, once you park your car, you can get around conveniently on the Metro; there’s a stop nearby. Yet inside the hotel it’s another world altogether — serene and comfortable — where you’ll be able to decompress completely at the end of the day or on a long, leisurely weekend. (19/20)
Total Score: (95/100)
Mandarin Oriental , Washington , D.C.
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