Unless one’s idea of an R&R is sitting before a roulette table or a slot machine, a weary urbanite hoping to escape the tumult of the concrete jungle altogether sidesteps Angeles City and the Clark Freeport Zone. After all, one only goes to Pampanga to occasionally treat the taste buds to sisig and halo-halo, or watch the oversized lanterns of San Fernando during the Christmas season.
Recently, however, a new concept in hospitality has risen in Clark to provide a holiday experience that is as exceptional as it is unexpected. Already creating a buzz as an address of uncompromising luxury, the elegant Midori Clark Hotel and Casino is leading the area’s resurgence as a tourist destination.
Located along Recto Avenue and fronting the rolling expanse of the Mimosa Golf Course, Midori immediately catches attention and establishes its presence not so much because of an imposing girth or flashy architectural style. On the contrary, it’s as if the builders wanted to keep the structure inconspicuous by employing clean lines, a streamlined silhouette, and a color palette that mimics the subdued colors of nature–stone, wood, granite and marble–in a style that is sleek and lean.
Arriving in the afternoon, when the sun was beating mercilessly on the landscape, the sight of the Midori, rising amid clipped greens and ancient acacia trees, was enough to provide us with a quick relief and the anticipation of the comforts within.
Inside, the lobby echoes the sophistication of the structure. The modular couches from Dedon are made striking by the ash-colored cushions in different sizes cradled by wooden frames in varying shades. The monochromatic scheme is interrupted by cushions of the same size, but with vivid ox blood upholstery.
Oversized art installations in metal, glass, or a combination of the two, punctuate the walls to break the starkness of the jet black walls. The wall decors depict stylized flower patterns, bursts of aurora borealis, stars, or repetitive circular shapes to provide focal points of art and beauty. Overhead, the ceiling fans with wooden blades give a decidedly tropical flavor to Zen-inspired interiors.
Mr. Vic Chan, Midori’s general manager calls the hotel’s design as “simple modern.” He explains, “When the owners decided to build the hotel, they wanted to make the design as simple as possible. So when we talked to the designers and architects, we told them we wanted to create an environment that is elegant but not decorative. They used clean lines because we didn’t want the hotel to take away from the beauty of the environment.”
Almost immediately, the coolness of the spacious lobby and reception enveloped me with a sense of relaxation, loosening the feelings of uneasiness.
Rooms with a View
Occupying a total area of 9,900 square meters, the Midori Clark Hotel and Casino will have 111 rooms once it is completely finished. By the end of August, 80 more rooms would have been completed and awaiting guests.
The existing rooms reflect a design style that is likewise refreshingly minimalist in inclination. Its color scheme of off-white, natural wood and slate invites a feeling of serenity. The frosted glass partitions in the bathroom do not only suggest the coolness of water, but also creates the impression of roominess.
“The rooms were made to be comfortable and sophisticated. The layout must be in such a way as to make it effortless for the guests to use the amenities. It should allow them ease of movement,” Chan points out.
He adds that, at Midori, perfection in service comes from the minutest of details, like the adequate water pressure in the shower, the appropriate softness of the bed to assure peaceful sleep, and the correct room temperature to create a living space of utmost pleasure. Even the furniture, spare and with soft geometric curves, were designed in Taiwan and manufactured in China. Clearly, nothing was left to the imagination in creating this haven.
So why name a hotel, washed in neutral earth tones, Midori?
“The first time I came to Clark, what attracted me most was the trees. Trees are beautiful and Clark is so blessed to have a lot of them, plus the grass and the rainforests. The greenery in the environment is the most important element of Midori. Inside, the color scheme of the hotel is quiet because we want to emphasize the brilliant green of the outside. If you are sitting inside, the room is not at all shiny. What is shining is the green outside,” explains Chan.
So although I found it rather strange, I was not at all surprised to find the room’s bathtub sitting languidly on the balcony, bidding to be experienced and enjoyed. Under the stars, one may step into the large tub wearing only a bit of impudence and, with Mt. Arayat and the distant peaks of the Sacobia mountain range gawking, proceed to perform one’s ablution.
British Bites, Continental Flavors, or Asian Delights?
As many foodies and epicures know, one makes a pilgrimage to Pampanga to sample the province’s famous cuisine. Luxurious in flavor, Kapampangan cuisine is said to be the hallmark of Filipino cooking artistry. So high tea in Angeles, while sounding a tad preposterous, is really not implausible.
Executive chef Steven Liu says that Midori aims to please the palate so it offers everything to satisfy the cravings of its varied clients. “When it comes to serving food, we treat clients as family members or close friends. If you have that mindset, the food you will serve to them should be of the best quality, and the service should be friendly. And that’s what we do in all our food and beverage outlets,” he says.
Café Midori has the laidback ambience of a coffee shop and serves classic European cakes and pastries, and Chinese sweets done the traditional way. Afternoon tea at Café Midori begins at 3 in the afternoon and ends at 5, or just as the sun starts to descend behind the leafy branches of the ancient acacia trees.
Promptly, we were served a selection of teas from Twinings of London. Then trays of savories and sweets arrived on the table to rouse the appetite. On the bottom plate, the chef arranged a circle of petite sandwiches—smoked salmon on wheat bread, chicken breast pesto on French baguette, and delicate puff pastry cradling slices of beef pepperoni. On the next stood an assembly of English sconces served with fruit jam and thick whipped cream. The topmost tray had a French macaron in a pastel shade of pink, dainty portions of tiramisu and chocolate balls, and cheesecake squares.
The adjoining Toscana, Midori’s main dining outlet, is more ___. “Toscana is our baby,” indicates Liu. “It is the most important restaurant in Midori because it is here where we serve the main meals. While our chefs here prepare an international lineup of dishes, Toscana is best known for the delicious lineup of Western, Korean and Chinese cuisines.”
For dinner, we were served superb entrées, which brought the flavors of the sea and the delicate relish of chicken infused with the zest of spices. The Korean Saewoo Gui is a trio of grilled tiger prawns bathed in a chili citrus sauce. It is served with steamed vegetables, kimchi, crispy nori and an egg roll.
Piquant but not overly so, the Roasted Chicken Marinated in Garlic is chicken steeped in the heady flavors of minced garlic, white onions, ginger powder and five-spice salt. The chicken pieces are roasted, then drenched with a rich peanut sauce. The egg noodles and pickled cherry tomatoes make this an unforgettable meal.
Finally, the piece de resistance arrived: a chunk of lightly grilled Atlantic salmon topped with salsa and a tangy saffron lime butter sauce. It is served with potato gratin and baton vegetables. Needless to say, it was a sublime dining experience.
Before calling it a night, we made a quick detour to Baccus Lounge. The club has a chic and easygoing vibe, its low lighting and sleek furnishing making the perfect venue for an après-dinner cocktail. The bar can whip up fruity margaritas, and serves liquor and beer as well. It has an adjoining garden that makes for a fine al fresco setting. The cool breeze wafting from the trees prompted us to try the Midori Mist, a bracing blend of lime juice and mint pepped by a splash of vodka.
But where’s the casino? Subtlety, it appears, is the operative word as to its location. While most hotels herald their in-house gaming joint, Midori has downplayed the presence of its own casino by housing it in a separate complex and making it hardly noticeable. Unless a guest intends to try his luck and play, he would surely miss its presence in the quiet lobby.
In truth, Midori’s casino is one of Asia’s most sophisticated amusement centers. Its baccarat table uses RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to uniquely identify objects and persons. Thus, every game—including the betting and the exact number of chips passing around—is carefully accounted for and monitored by a computer. There can be absolutely no cheating. The slot machines, I was told, are the most modern type.
“We intentionally built the casino away from the hotel and in a way that calls no attention. First, we want to show respect to the environment by keeping it as quiet and low-key as possible. Second, we are building Midori to appeal to everyone—even to families and their children. We don’t want to be known simply as a casino hotel,” says Chan.
By the end of the year, when the construction of Midori’s theme park has been completed, Chan is expecting to welcome hordes of children who wish to have a memorable holiday experience. “We want to create a superb leisure and entertainment center in Clark that the whole family can enjoy. Central to this is the Midori Theme Park. Once it’s finished, it’s going to be one of the most exciting water parks in Asia,” he enthuses.
Covering an astounding 10 hectares, the Midori Theme Park will house more than 20 facilities and 13 thrilling water slides, the kinds that children and holiday-makers have never seen in the Philippines before.
“We will have parks within the facility that will carry distinct themes. Through shows and presentations, we will feature different stories and characters that will appeal to children,” says Chan. Also in the blueprint are cafés and dining outlets serving an assortment of edible delights—from TexMex and sundaes to pizza and pasta.
While this major recreational facility will, no doubt, attract families, Midori’s unique location among the greens, as well as its pampering brand of service, make it the perfect destination if one wishes to duck the deafening commotion of the metropolis.
Thus, the short holiday over, I felt a bit of trepidation as I packed my bags. I don’t exactly welcome the thought of going back to Manila yet and face the din of the heaving city. Because in this haven on the greens, under the weather-beaten trees, I can look out into the outlying mountains and, in the embrace of stillness, rediscover my inner self.