Manila's Star-Studded Casino
City of Dreams Manila contends that having it all isn't a mirage. By JENINNE LEE-ST.JOHN.
Published on Jan 18, 2016
WHAT WILDEST FANTASIES float through your head at night? Maybe it's the power to build a pet dragon out of the latest in reptile-design parts then take to the Viking skies to race Hiccup and Toothless in your own version of How to Train Your Dragon. Maybe it's going all-in for a king-of-the-hill two-story villa that comes complete with 24-hour staff and your own private casino. Or maybe it's just savoring a reunion with old friends—we're looking at you, Nobu-standard-bearers black cod in den miso and squid pasta—in a candlelit floating cabana at the outpost of the minimalist founding father of Japanese fusion.
Main entrance. Courtesy of City of Dreams Manila.
Disparate dreams, to say the least, but one glittering complex has the chutzpah to fulfill them all and more: new in Metro Manila, itself a patchwork of small cities, City of Dreams is conjuring its own municipality. The younger sister of the Macau property of the same name, City of Dreams Manila (Asean Avenue corner Roxas Boulevard, Entertainment City, Parañaque) is a 6.2-hectare gaming/hotel/entertainment/shopping/dining megapolis that manages to be all things to all ages. Yes, it's centered on an enormous casino, but you'd be forgiven if you didn't notice, there are enough distractions around every corner.
Let's start with the kids'-wish-come-true of a 5,000-square-meter play space, DreamPlay, where the tikes can jump headfirst into their favorite DreamWorks movies, both in virtual reality and live-action sets. Just ask the little girl we spotted steeling her courage to leap off a two-story platform to try to grab hold of a punching bag suspended in mid-air Kung Fu Panda-style. She looked as incredulously thrilled to be told just dive in as we, grown-ups, felt when presented with the choose-your-own-adventure of a degustation at The Tasting Room. Sure, the chef can send you his favorites, but you can also pick your number of courses and then pluck whatever you want off the menu to populate them. Try the 52-degree egg, and the Barbary duck with polenta pastry and popcorn. And pray the foie gras lollipop is in the amuse-bouche trifecta.
Kung Fu Panda-themed fun at DreamPlay. Courtesy of City of Dreams Manila.
The architectural anchor here is a glittering golden egg filled with two nightclubs (Chaos and Pangaea) and bookended by the family-friendly Hyatt City of Dreams Manila, and Crown Towers Manila, home of the private-casino-villa and other extravagances. But the homecoming king and queen of this parade are Nobu restaurant and its eponymous hotel above, which is the first in Asia and only the second in the world outside of Vegas, thanks to the championing efforts of Robert De Niro. The aesthetic is stylishly subdued sakura-cool (some might call it "Zen") in blacks and whites and reds, with calligraphy paintings on the walls and Nobu's own yuzu sake in the minibar. Ask for a bay-facing room, from which you'll have a great view of the complex's best pool and the setting sun tossing sparkly refractions off that giant golden egg. We're sure your dreams will be sweeter than those of the goose who laid it.
Buffet at the Hyatt. Richard W. Marks.