Head of Kitano New York Operations
The Japanese owned and operated hotel never disappoints New Yorkers Discreet,
elegant hospitality is managed by a Danish hotelier
The only Japanese-owned Kitano Hotel appointed Mr. Basse as General Manger over 3 years ago at its New York location in the historic Murray Hill district. “Mr. Basse is responsible for overall operations of the hotel including sales and marketing and food and beverage outlets such as the highly regarded Hakubai traditional Japanese restaurant, the Garden Café and Bar Lounge featuring live Jazz performance by legendary and contemporary Jazz musicians.” His experience spans three decades and some of the world’s finest hotels such as The Savoy in London, Hotel Plaza Athene in Paris and The Grand Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Kitano Hotel is an icon of impeccable service, comfort and relaxation for Japanese people living in NYC as well as Japanese tourists. How would you describe The Kitano New York? What is its distinctive feature?
A serene oasis in Manhattan along busy Park Avenue. Great insulation of window and walls makes The Kitano a real haven of tranquility. It’s a fusion of East and West – immaculately clean, an epitome of understated elegance.
You have a Northern European background, were trained at the prestigious L’Ecole Hôtelière in Lausanne in Switzerland and have worked in many world-renowned hotels in Europe. What is the most impressive thing about the hospitality industry in Europe and how is it different from New York?
The style of hospitality is different. In Europe it is much more old-fashioned and formal. Here it’s erratic. That’s the charm. It fits the pace of the city. Everyone’s in a hurry. The hospitality business is more service-oriented here, with constant attention to improvements.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about American hospitality? What is your mission philosophy for the hospitality business in New York?
The desire to be the best, to be sincere, anticipate needs by setting goals. Americans are impressed by statistics. So we designed guest questionnaires and review critiques by customers. A hotel is never better than the people working in it. The current staff are the Kitano have been working since 1995.
Have you ever been to Japan? In Japan, the traditional ryokan or inn is very famous. What do you think of traditional Japanese hospitality? How does it differ from American or European hospitality?
I’ve been to Japan about 5 times on business trips. I never stayed at a ryokan, rather in city hotels. Visiting Kyoto was the most tranquil experience… Japanese hospitality is sincere, humble, and unobtrusive. For example, during my stay at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo I was in the dining hall and saw a waiter take a jacket to housekeeping to stitch a button and bring it back to the dining room. We had a similar story at The Kitano. A lady lost her engagement ring in the drain. So the ceiling was opened to retrieve the ring from the plumbing.
What percent of your guests are non-Japanese? Are there many repeaters? Why do you think they choose the Kitano hotel when they come to NYC?
About 10 % are European, 60% other non-Japanese guests and 30% are Japanese. We have a 45-50% return factor. People come back for the service, product ad location!
Scandinavian furniture is popular among Japanese consumers. It seems that both Swedish and Japanese people respect the beauty of simplicity. Do you feel any similarities between the two cultures? The star chef of Aquavit, Marcus Samuelssson mentioned he loves Sushi Yasuda – simple, quality and natural. Would you like to bring some Swedish influence over to the Kitano Hotel to pursue an intercultural fusion here?
Swedish and Japanese cultures are very different. I love Sushi Yasuda too…Marcus is at The Scandinavian House next door with a Swedish lunch counter and extensive menus for special occasions.
By the way, do you incorporate anything Japanese into your private lifestyle? Food, art, music, books, movies or any customs like taking a deep bath?
I take a deep bath in the winter.
What is your message to New Yorkers?
Come and try the only Japanese owned and operated hotel in New York City. We will not disappoint you. We will surprise you and make you feel special. We pride ourselves in winning you over and keeping you satisfied.
—-Mr. Basse’s Choice—-
What is your favorite Japanese restaurant in Manhattan, after Hakubai?
Sushiden, and Hakubai.
Where do you feel most like “Japan” in Manhattan aside from the Kitano Hotel?
In Japanese restaurants like Sushiden, Nobu, and Morimoto.
Summer Event at Hakubai at The Kitano
Traditional Eel-eating Days of Summer
From July 30 to Aug 5
This summer, The Kitano New York’s Michelin-rated Hakubai Restaurant invites guests to experiences some of the country’s most authentic Japanese cuisine and culture with special Eel-eating Days of Summer – based upon the lunar calendar Doyo. The Japanese people eat eel to cure the accumulated summer heat-related fatigue, what we call “natsubate”. The nutrition of eel is perfect to overcome this time of the year.
Hakubai Restaurant 212-885-7111
66 Park Ave. at East 38th St. New York, NY 10016 TEL: 212-885-7000