Toronto Opening: Shangri-La Hotel

With a “phantom” opening cleverly orchestrated in time for the Toronto Film Festival, Toronto’s Shangri-La is now prepped to welcome those not necessarily hunted by the paparazzi.

Taking up just 17 floors of a spectacular new 66-story tower, the Shangri-La’s guests are greeted by Zhang Huan’s epic, stainless steel Rising sculpture, leading to a light-flooded lobby and loung adorned with stunning Chinese calligraphy paintings. The artistic flourishes continue on into The Bar, which features 180 hand-blown overhead glass fixtures. Jean Paul Lourdes, um, lords over the intimate Bosk restaurant, which proffers Asian-influenced international cuisine. Eastern aesthetic accents prevail throughout the hotel, including some particularly extravagant repros of Chinese Emperor chairs. The Health Club features chandeliers, natural light, and a 20-meter saltwater lap pool. As close to “paradise” as the name suggests.

Paris Opening: Shang Palace

With Monsieur Sarkozy carefully courting Chinese favor, and China’s newly minted elite lusting after French luxury goods, the Parisian debut of Hong Kong based Shangri-La hotels in late 2010 was instilled with diplomatic gravitas. Its location, in a fittingly grandiose 19th Century mansion (once home to a grand-nephew of Napoleon himself) in the 16th, gives it proximity to the city’s rarefied couture houses.

And the detente has now been made fully complete with the opening of the hotel’s swish Shang Palace restaurant, the first genuine haute Cantonese restaurant in the capital. Amidst glittering chandeliers and ethereal artistic reminders of Imperial China, Frank Xu’s menu makes no concessions to Western palettes. Rather, everything from crispy suckling pig to lion’s head soup is done to sublime authenticity. Three private dining rooms are named for the Tang, Ming and Qing dynasties, for those nights when only the most regal treatment will do.

Score one for 21st Century Sino-French diplomacy.

David Chang to Join Toronto’s Hotel Shangri-La

The Shangri-La Toronto is slowly starting to flex its muscles as a major downtown attraction—and it’s still only skeletons and scaffolding. The 5-star, 66 story hotel and residence tower, which straddles the Financial and Entertainment districts, it’s already causing a stir amongst locals. Anticipation has been building on Urban Toronto‘s forum, where construction progress and rumormongering have been laboriously detailed by users. The latest to come out of the construction site (and perpetuated on Twitter): David Chang has plans to open a restaurant in the hotel, joining the property for its 2012 scheduled opening.

Chang is an incredibly busy dude: ruler of the Momofuku empire (which includes Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, Má Pêche, Momofuku Milk Bar and the Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko), celebrated cookbook author, culinary bad boy (a title earned after telling Anthony Bourdain that Cali chefs “don’t manipulate food, they just put figs on a plate”), and most recently, an iPad app publisher. While Chang has not made an official confirmation, he did cryptically Tweet something rather leading:

@DavidChang: hello southern ontario . . . late late 2012ish?

To which the Urban Torontoans exclaimed:

David Chang? Seriously? That’s a massive score. I’d had my fingers crossed for a Nobu, but I’ll take a Momofuku anyday.

Hopefully they don’t build up too much buzz about it, so that I’ll actually be able to get the odd reservation here and there. Major pain in the ass to get in to some of his NYC locations.

I think the other hotels are dead to me now. This is the one I’m waiting for.

This Toronto-based project would be the chef’s first restaurant outside of New York City—a major coup for Shangri-La. His restaurant is rumored to be three full levels, in construction next to the hotel’s pools on the northeast end side of the hotel.

Shangri-La Paris Will Finally Open Next Month

Believe it or not, there’s more to the 16th arrondissement (Trocadero) in Paris than “unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower.” Sure, Troc is a little removed from the city center, but it has its own charm. For one, it’s less touristy and more community-minded, thanks to the strong residential feel – if you visit, best to brush up on your French, s’il te plait. It’s also more upmarket than you’d imagine (or maybe Paris is just super-expensive everywhere). Case in point, Shangri-La Paris will open doors on December 17 in the neighborhood. The hotel was slated to open this past fall, but hey, shit happens.

One of the highlights of Shangri-La’s new hotel is that it’s taken over the former private home of Napoleon Bonaparte’s grand-nephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte. You can only imagine how ridiculously over-the-top this 1896 landmark building will be, especially in the hands of Shangri-La, who deliver poshness you can rely on. In fact, Pierre-Yves Rochon designed each of the 81 rooms—including 27 suites—and not a single one is the same. Given that there’s less than a hundred rooms, this makes the hotel the most “boutique” of all Shangri-La properties. It’s also the Asian chain’s first property in Europe. There will be three restaurants, a full-service spa, and nearly half of the rooms will have balconies and terraces, which brings you that much closer to—wait for it—unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower.

British Invasion: The Pimm’s Cup Takes Over L.A.

The Pimm’s Cup has a long and proud history in Britain, one of tennis and big hats and dressing in summer whites. A polo match practically doesn’t count if there isn’t any Pimm’s on hand to sip whilst stomping divots. Pimm’s No. 1, the liquor the drink is built around, was first assembled in the 1860s, a heady mixture of gin, a liqueur, fruit, and various spices. To make a Pimm’s Cup, one adds something sparkly (like ginger ale or carbonated lemonade) plus citrus and cucumber. Unsurprisingly, this concoction is popular in the grand hotels lining the beach in Santa Monica (aka California’s Little England). But over the past couple of months, it’s become the cocktail to order amongst L.A.’s coolest imbibers.

Perhaps it was this year’s World Cup that spurred the lust for Pimm’s on the West Coast. Such was the demand for the stuff that there was a rush for Pimm’s No. 1 at the Whole Foods in Venice Beach, where they actually sold out of the previously dusty, neglected bottles.

The traditional preparation of a Pimm’s Cup makes it an excellent day drink, perfect for quaffing on a balcony at Shutters or the Shangri-La, two hotels with tried-and-true versions. Coming into L.A.’s real summer (August to October, where nights can reach 80 degrees), it’s a perfectly acceptable evening cocktail, too. And with all the fruit and liquid additions that go into a Cup, the drink is a good match for L.A.’s current mixology obsession.

The most interesting bars in the city are experimenting with their own, updated renditions. At Varnish, the drink is called the Fruit Cup. The bar mixes its own base (gin, Grand Marnier, cherry Heering, and CarpanoAntica Formula) and adds muddled fruit, cucumbers, and Sprite to finish it. The not-quite-native When in London is Drago Centro’s contribution — their version adds straight gin to the Pimm’s-and-fruit base. Now we’re moving quickly away from sparkly drink territory and into the land of serious boozing.The Brits would appreciate the gesture.

Drago’s Pimm’s Cup, in addition to increasing the alcohol content, makes use of strained berries for a deeper flavor. At First & Hope, the barkeeps stick to citrus but make their own Pimm’s, and add ginger beer for a darker, spicier flavor.

With lingering World Cup fever, a hot Indian summer, and a city-wide passion for complicated cocktails, L.A. has made itself a Pimm’s Cup town.

Industry Insiders: Tehmina Adaya, Shangri-La’s Lady

President and CEO of Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica, Tehmina Adaya has been hard at work prepping the family-owned business for an expansion to five more locations in the next five years. Adaya also heads up the record label, So Sweet Records. More on her hotelier views after the jump.

How did you come to be associated with Shangri-La? I come from a family that owns commercial real estate and my father bought the Shangri-La in 1983. The family ran it as a mom-and-pop hotel for years, but my father handed the reins to me a few years ago. It’s still a privately owned and managed lifestyle business. I’m a family girl, who is wholly invested in the lifestyle business—as an hotelier in a fantasy destination for the hospitality industry.

How did you get your start? I’m originally from Pakistan, but moved to California when I was 12. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and still live six blocks away. My father was my mentor; he set the example of being a balanced individual and was a successful entrepreneur who worked until nine o’clock every night. I grew up in a family business environment. When my father became ill, he began to hand the family business baton to me, the youngest of six children. He groomed me all my life and put me in charge of his whole portfolio. I’m now the trustee for everything. My mother is alive and well, and a great supporter.

Who do you look up to in the hospitality industry? Ian Schrager did an amazing thing for the hospitality industry in general. Where I differ from him is in the elitism at the Gramercy Park Hotel. I also admire André Balazs, who has made the Chateau Marmont better and better. My personal mentors are Goodwin Gaw, who owns the Hollywood Roosevelt—another historic building—and turned it into a very dynamic space instead of a museum where nobody wants to stay. Another person I like is Mark Rosenthal of the Sunset Marquis, which is now an urban sanctuary that didn’t give up an inch of their history.

What do you predict for 2010? Part of the hospitality industry is turning into a lifestyle industry—now you go into a hotel and see beautiful art and hear relevant music, get different bath products in your room, consume different drinks in a unique bar, meet more interesting people. Even if you lead a suburban lifestyle, once you stay at the right hotel, you feel young and dynamic. You feel like you know what’s happening. The hospitality industry is also becoming more environmentally responsible. Our hotel is much more green than it’s ever been, and even the bath product bottles are biodegradable—they’re made of cornstarch and disintegrate in a landfill. Our toilets are green too, they’re dual flush toilets! I read a shocking old statistic that claimed that one American used as much natural resources as 40 Bengalis. My father would get upset if I left the tap on while brushing my teeth because he said, “You’re answerable to God and the environment for everything you waste.”

Positive changes in ’09? You were once treated as either a nobody or as a VIP. Now hosts are treating all guests with an equal hand with the economic downturn in full swing.

Something that people might not know about you? I don’t think people really know that I’m involved in the music industry, that I have my own dance music label, So Sweet Records, and that I adore fashion and I love designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Alaia. I’m a complete Anglophile; I love that England is so culturally dynamic and socially diverse, which comes from living in Pakistan for the first 12 years of my life. My husband and I are both Muslims, although his mother is Turkish and his father is Lebanese. He was born in Kuwait where his father was brought to head the nation’s medical profession—his father delivered all of the royal babies there as well.

What’s your favorite city? London! I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t visit twice a year.

Any non-industry projects in the works? Raising my children. My eldest son, 20, told me he was really proud of me when I started the hotel and the record label because it made things seem possible for him and said, “I can see my mother doing it, and it really inspires me.” The label is another child to me. I also started a school and worked hard at it—it’s an elementary school, pre-school-to-sixth grade called New Horizon. My father donated the land, and I had it accredited within five years.

Where are your go-to places in LA? First, I love SkyBar; it started the whole outdoor lifestyle bar thing in Los Angeles and is fabulously done at the Mondrian. I love the Chateau Marmont; that’s the property I would compare our historic hotel to—it’s a comfortable place with stellar service and impeccable food. Nothing compares to the Four Seasons, and you can actually smoke outside! I love The Edison, located in an industrial ballroom; it’s timelessly hot. I really like Foxtail, it’s just beautiful and reminiscent of Biba in London in the 1970s. My favorite indoor bar is at the Sanderson in London—very French and delicate, mirrored, like a doll house or a jewel.