Dinner at Caffe for under $20 (before 5pm)

December 18th, 2014

Dinner at Caffe, the casual restaurant in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo, can run upwards of 6000 yen.  But if you get there during tea time, which runs from 2:30 to 5:00pm, you can order a special pizza set for 1900 yen (2257 yen with service and sales tax)

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a seat with a nice view of the holiday lights:

Not as nice as the view these people have.

Not as nice as the view these people have.

Although the pizza is listed as “pizza of the day”, I had a choice between Margarita and Three Cheese pizza.  I chose the former.

The course comes with a garden salad and a choice of drink.  In addition to coffee and soft drinks, red and white wine are also available.  I decided to try the white wine.

If you think you’re going to get drunk without heading up to Eau de Vie, think again.  The quantity is not terribly generous.

A little stingy.  But I'm not one to whine about it.

A little stingy. But I’m not one to whine about it.

To make up for this, you are served a very special wine that is not available from the drink menu:

This is Caffe's freshest wine.  I'm pretty sure it's made with actual grapes!

This is Caffe’s freshest wine. I’m pretty sure it’s made with actual grapes!

The salad is pretty such the same as the salad I’ve made for myself dozens of times in the Regency Club Lounge:

Although those experienced with the Regency Club will not that this salad has onions.

Although those experienced with the Regency Club will not that this salad has onions.

The pizza arrived about 10 minutes after placing my order, just after finishing my salad (though long after finishing my wine):

See fork and knife for an approximation of scale.

See fork and knife for an approximation of scale.

The taste was somewhere in the broad expanse between a frozen pizza and something you would get from an actual pizzeria.  But with some Tabasco sauce, this was perfectly acceptable, and for me was filling enough to pass for an actual dinner.

As you can tell from my tone, this wasn’t the greatest meal I’ve had.  But at under $20 with today’s exchange rate, it may be a reasonable option for those on a one night stay looking to cut costs without leaving the hotel.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Hyatt Regency Tokyo Point Card, this meal will net you 110 points.  Order this early dinner 228 times, and you will be upgraded to Premium Card status!

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Trying a Ballantine 30 Year Manhattan at Hyatt Regency Tokyo

November 15th, 2014

In my third installment of my unlikely series of a teetotaler sampling extremely expensive drinks, I will discuss the Ballantine 30 Year Manhattan at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo bar Eau de Vie.  But mostly I will discuss my experience trying to drink the Ballantine 30 Year Manhattan at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo bar Eau de Vie.

I was introduced to this drink via the monthly mailing from the special Hyatt Regency Tokyo Point Card club, completely separate from the regular Hyatt Gold Passport system.

More text

Not the greatest of scans. Time to get a new scanner.

If you can’t read that description, it says “A luxurious cocktail made with Ballantine’s 30 Years Old as its base and created by Eau de Vie, it is sure to delight you with the whiskey’s rich aroma and deep, magical flavor, combined with hints of sweet vermouth and griotte cherries.”

Of course, all of that implied luxury comes at a price: a whopping 4752 yen.

Fortunately, the mailing also comes with some coupons for the hotel bars and restaurants, including  a Happy Hour coupon for half price drinks before 8pm, so I decided that I could spend half of 4752 yen in the name of research.

I went to the bar, getting the exact same bar seat as my last stay, and promptly ordered the exotic drink that has been in the making since the 1980′s just for me.  I then pulled out my special mailing coupon and asked for it to be applied, when the bartender told me “Sorry, we can’t take half off for the Ballantine’s 30 Year Manhattan.”

Now, the coupon passed out by the bar after I paid my tab last time around specifically states (in Japanese) that certain drinks may be exempt from the discount, but the coupon from the mailing had no such exemption.  I was not about to spend the full 4752 yen on this drink, but I didn’t want to make a scene in the bar, so I canceled my drink order and went downstairs to the front desk to ask to talk with somebody about the Point Card program.

When I was told that there was nobody from the point card staff on hand at this time of the evening, I explained to the lady that this coupon was not being honored at the bar.  She called the bar, then led me back to the bar to talk with the bar manager at the entrance (this sort of roundabout way of doing things happens all the time in Japan)

For a couple of minutes we politely went back and forth between his stance of “We put 8000 yen worth of liquor into this drink and it’s already heavily discounted, we can’t discount it any more.” and my stance of “You pass out coupons that state that you can make such limitations, but this isn’t one of them!”  Finally it got quiet, and I made my last plea, “Are you sure that there’s nothing that you can do?”  At this, he sighed and said, “Would it be acceptable to make an exception for just one drink?”  I thanked him and grudgingly accepted, though of course that was all that I ever wanted in the first place.

So it was back to my seat, back to my original order, and back to my bar snacks.  All of the staff at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo are the utmost professionals, so if there were any resentment on the part of the staff there was no way that I could have ever detected it.

About five minutes later, my first ever Manhattan arrived, looking much as it did in the pamphlet.

Like a kid learning to drive with a Bugatti Veyron.

Like a kid learning to drive with a Bugatti Veyron.

I couldn’t possibly say anything to do this drink justice, but that’s never stopped me before, so here goes.  It was very strong with a hint of sweetness…but it felt like a strength you could control, not one that overpowers the drinker.  It felt like I was snorting fire out my nose like a dragon, with it being a good feeling.  The griotte cherries were about twice as strong and four times as sweet as the drink itself.  I was able to nurse this drink for a good twenty minutes, feeling a very nice, dreamy buzz throughout the vast majority of that time.

By the end, I could totally understand how a person could easily drop five digits in a place like this.  But of course, the bar made good on its promise, and I made it out of there only 2376 yen lighter (with a bonus of another 115 points on my Hyatt Regency Tokyo Point Card.  Only several years away from the Premium Card at this rate!)

I also received another regular Happy Hour card.  Maybe I’ll come back and try a regular Manhattan to see if I could tell the difference.

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Discounted Hyatt Points Plus Points + Cash Rates Equals Potential Tokyo Hyatt Hotel Savings

November 11th, 2014

Through December 10th, 2014, Hyatt is offering a 30% bonus on the purchase of 5000 or more Hyatt Gold Passport points.

In most cases, purchasing points for all but a small top-off needed to acquire an award is a bad deal, for two reasons:

  1. It’s usually cheaper to just pay for the room than to buy enough points to pay for it.
  2. Award stays (using just points) do not count towards receiving points, or receiving stay credit for obtaining or maintaining higher status levels like Platinum or Diamond.

However, the current bonus does a lot to make purchasing points for a stay feasible, and the Points + Cash option at Hyatt hotels seals the deal.

Started just this year, Points + Cash rates allow you to use points to receive a deeply discounted room rate (the exact amount of points and cash required varies depending on the Award Category Level of the hotel).  Because it is a paid rate, you also receive points for the stay, and a stay credit.  And, like a regular rewards stay, it is a fully refundable rate.

The best part about Points + Cash rate is that it is a flat rate, regardless of time of year it is used.  So the more high demand/high cost time period it is, the more potential value you can receive from this offer.

Let’s look at how Points + Cash stacks up against the Tokyo Hyatt hotels.  I will choose a three night stay for two adults, during an arbitrary high demand period:  March 27-30, 2015.

First, the Hyatt Regency Tokyo.  This hotel is Award Category 3, so according to the Points + Cash chart, the rate requires $75 USD and 6,000 points per night.  For our three night stay, that is $225 and 18,000 points.

With the 30% discount, we can purchase 18,200 points for $336.  Adding to our $225 gives us a total of $561.  Dividing that by three nights gives us a Discount Purchased Points + Cash (I’ll call it “DPP+C”) rate of $187/night.

As of today, the lowest Hyatt Regency Tokyo refundable rate for those nights is $212.

Score one for PP+C!

Score one for PP+C!

DPP+C gives us a little over 10% savings…and shows that we shouldn’t even bother with this if we must purchase points at the regular price.

Next is the Andaz Tokyo.  This hotel is Award Category 6, doubling the nightly P+C cost to $150 USD and 12,000 points a night, or $450 + 36,000 points for all three nights.

With the 30% discount, we can purchase 36,400 points for $672.  Adding to our $450 gives us a total of $1122.  Dividing that by three nights gives us a DPP+C rate of $374/night.

This just barely beats out the best Andaz Tokyo refundable rate of $397, and if you’re willing to accept a prepaid, no-refundable rate, is worse than the Advance Purchase rate price of $338.

Given the time and effort required, we'll call it a push.

Given the time and effort required, we’ll call it a push.

Grand Hyatt Tokyo is also an Award Category 6 hotel, so the DPP+C rate is also $374/night.  Here we do much better than the Hyatt Daily Rate of $432…an over 15% savings!  It even beats out the inferior Advance Purchase rate.

DPP+C wins the rubber match.

DPP+C wins the rubber match in convincing fashion!

Sadly, I’m not even going to look up Park Hyatt Tokyo.  First of all, the P+C rate can only be used for base room, for which none are currently available for March 27th-30th.  Second, the Park Hyatt Tokyo is an Award Category 7 hotel, which requires 15,000 points and a whopping $300 USD/night.  Buying enough points to cover the 45,000 required for three nights will cost $840, which adds to $900 cash fee for a grand total of $1740, giving us a per night rate of $580.  And if you have to settle for $580/night for a base room at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, then you’re just not trying hard enough.

But, outside of the Park Hyatt Tokyo, I think that I have shown that purchasing discounted points for a Points + Cash rate at a Tokyo Hyatt hotel can be beneficial.  And, in the case of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo and the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, the DPP+C rate can be significantly beneficial.

Unfortunately, the Points + Cash rate cannot be booked online;  you must call Hyatt Gold Passport to book it.  And, unlike a straight points reservation, inventory may not be available for a Points + Cash reservation even if it is available for the Hyatt Daily Rate.  But, if you’re willing to put in a few minutes of time on the phone, the resulting savings may be well worth your effort.

Bonus Content: Like the Grand Hyatt Tokyo and Andaz Tokyo, the Hyatt Regency Hakone Resort & Spa is also an Award Category 6 hotel, so DDP+C rate remains $374/night.  And like the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, DDP+C would give you a savings of over %15 off the Hyatt Daily Rate.

Whether it's actually worth $374 a night is open to debate...

Whether the Hyatt Regency Hakone is actually worth $374 a night is open to debate…

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Inside…the Hyatt Regency Tokyo Regency Club

November 9th, 2014

I’d like to talk about my recent stay at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo in a Presidential Suite:

The living room of a Hyatt Regency Tokyo Presidential Suite

The living room of a Hyatt Regency Tokyo Presidential Suite

The bedroom of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo Presidential Suite

The bedroom of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo Presidential Suite

Unfortunately, I merely snuck into the room to take these pictures while the door was open.  This is not the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, which upgraded us from a base room to a Presidential Suite on the last night of our stay this summer.

I might be persuaded to write an off-topic post about this if others are interested.

I might be persuaded to write an off-topic post about the experience if others are interested.

Sadly, we were once again relegated to a View Room.  But regardless of the room, all Diamond members of the Hyatt Gold Passport program are afforded the use of the Hyatt Regency Tokyo Regency Club.  Which, on a yen-for-yen basis, is the best hotel club lounge value in all of Tokyo, comparable to those found in rooms twice the cost elsewhere.

A room key is required to enter the club proper, but the club reception desk is directly outside of this door.  So you can go directly to the ninth floor to sit down and check in in comfort, avoiding the long lines in the cavernous lobby down below.

If you arrive a couple hours early, a room may not be available, but you will be afforded entry into the Regency Club while you wait.  Once inside, you will find an enormous space with three separate seating areas, most of which will be almost completely empty at this time.

The lounge is shaped like a giant letter L (or number 7, depending on your perspective.  The first sitting room features a television and easiest access to the snacks and drinks.

When the TV is on, it's almost always tuned to CNN...with the sound off.

When the TV is on, it’s almost always tuned to CNN…with the sound off.

The middle room, the corner of the L or 7, features nice sofas and the best views of the nearby Shinjuku Central Park and the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

This seems to be the most popular, and quickest to fill during breakfast and evening cocktail time.

This seems to be the most popular, and quickest to fill during breakfast and evening cocktail time.

Pay your respects to paradise from the big round window.

Pay your respects to paradise from the big round window.

On the way to the third sitting room, there is actually a separate small smoking room that I forgot to take a picture of.  This room is behind a glass door, and does a good job of keeping the smoke out of the rest of the nonsmoking portion of the club.

The final room tucked in the back is the quietest, and the favorite of our family.

Best to just head straight over here if you arrive when the club fills up during the middle of cocktail and breakfast time.

Best to just head straight over here if you arrive when the club fills up during the middle of cocktail and breakfast time.

At all times during the Club’s open hours (7am to 10pm), there is a coffee/espresso machine, an assortment of hot tea, and various cold beverages available.

They do a good job of making a little seem like a lot.

They do a good job of making a little seem like a lot.

From 10am to just before evening cocktail time there are some cookies and a few additional tea varieties, such as peppermint.  This is enough to make a nice little pick-me-up I call the THF Special: Coca Cola, Peppermint Tea, and lemon.

For best results, let peppermint tea steep for five minutes, and crush lemon with straw.

For best results, let peppermint tea steep for five minutes, and crush lemon with straw.

After 2pm, some additional sweets are available in the form of one or two types of cut fruit and a modest cake.  Some apples and bananas may also be available.

This club really shines during evening cocktails and morning breakfast.  The alcohol and appetizers are set out from 6pm sharp.

Promptness is big in Tokyo

Promptness is big in Tokyo.

Though others feel otherwise, I am a big fan of these huge chunks of reggiano cheese.  Most of the appetizers change from night to night, but the cheese has been a staple for years.

Wash em down with sliced French bread, crackers, and beer snacks.

Wash em down with sliced French bread, crackers, and beer snacks.

A different cake and a fruit cocktail dish is also available.

The fruit cocktail is also a favorite of mine.  Over the past three years I may have consumed a hundred.

The fruit cocktail is also a favorite of mine. Over the past three years I may have consumed a hundred.

Although people will swarm the food immediately after it comes out, the staff do a good job of replenishing it.  If you’re not into competition, you may have a more enjoyable time waiting until the second or third round of food comes around.

This is especially true for the hot appetizers, which start coming out at 6:30pm (sharp).  The first wave is almost always gone by 6:31pm.  Drifting around the entrance to the food and beverage room via the first sitting room around 6:29pm will get you the coveted prize if you’re really hungry.

And the prize has gotten that much better, because the hot appetizers have just been increased from two to four!

It

It was tough to get a good picture on my phone with the light.

My favorite foods ever served at this lounge were the boneless fried chicken and Chinese shumai dumplings.  Neither were available on this stay, but the sliced beef dish and the gorgonzola penne were decent enough.  With four different items to choose from, it is definitely possible to make a meal out of this.

The alcohol is so-so, but it is a decent variety of free alcohol.  The Japanese sake is probably my favorite.

I think that 7pm to 8pm is the best time to arrive, as it becomes easier to get the food without worrying about it disappearing while you are lining up.

The breakfast from 7am is my favorite part of the Regency Club experience.  It goes far beyond a mere continental breakfast that many Regency Clubs settle for, with two hot meat dishes, hot eggs, a hot vegetable, and much, much more.

Plain

Plain omelet, sausage, stewed tomatoes, and bacon.

Lots

Lots of fresh fruit and salad.

Yogurt,

Yogurt, muesli, dried fruits, nuts, milk, juice, and more.

So many tasty breads and pastries!

So many tasty breads and pastries!

And cold cuts

And cold cuts

Extra

Extra tables are needed to hold it all!

All this, plus excellent, caring service from all of the Regency Club staff, make the Hyatt Regency Tokyo Regency Club well worth visiting, even if you must pay for it.

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American Express Buy 3 Get 4 Rate

November 7th, 2014

American Express is running a promotion with Hyatt for a special rate that allows you to book a four night stay for the price of three from December 1st, 2014 through March 31st, 2015. A lot of times these “special rates” are actually marked up significantly from the regular rate, the end result being not much in the way of actual savings. But this rate appears to be tracking the Hyatt Daily Rate, which means that you actually can save up to 25% on your stay.

(EDIT: Unfortunately, the Park Hyatt Tokyo has opted out of this promotion.)

When searching for availability, be sure to use the “Special Offer Code” AX701, as in the following example for February dates at the Andaz Tokyo:

Click on the SPECIAL RATES to open the code entry window.

Click on the SPECIAL RATES link to open the code entry window.

If there is availability for all four nights, the “Amex Buy 3 Get 4″ rate will show up, with the Average Daily Rate being the value of the Hyatt Daily Rate (or Andaz Rate for Andaz hotels) with the last night’s rate fare waved.  In this example, it is three nights at 42000 yen and one night at zero yen, for an average rate of 31500 per night.

Up to 25% savings for stays of exactly four nights.

Up to 25% savings for stays of exactly four nights.

The only limitation of this rate is the requirement of an American Express credit card for payment.  Cancellation policy is the same as the Andaz Rate (or Hyatt Daily Rate at other hotels), for a rate much cheaper than the more restrictive Advance Purchase rate.

If staying eight nights, break your stay into two four nights stays for two free nights.

If staying eight nights, break your stay into two four nights stays for two free nights.

As always, it is best to book fully refundable fares and check periodically for better offers.  This is a good deal, but we should always be on the lookout for more!

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