Crustaceans do not run short of admirers in the culinary world, but to prepare and enjoy shellfish, the exoskeleton must be removed from the meat – and it’s this neglected element that the design world is looking to for structural inspiration. At the new Ebisoba Ichigen ramen restaurant in Hong Kong, design collective A Work of Substance did just that, leaving the kitchen to focus solely on the animal’s edible features.  

Ramen itself exists due to the emulsion of Japanese and Chinese culture: although the broth-noodle combination as we know it today is indisputably Japanese, ramen noodles were first imported to the country from China. At its locations in Japan, Sapporo-based Ebisoba Ichigen has oft been praised for its unique take on the classic dish since opening in 2009. Their most beloved menu item is made with shrimp broth – hence the architectural homage.

The walls emulate the form of Ebisoba Ichigen’s star ingredient and leave diners in the belly of the beast


In Hong Kong, the restaurant found its home in the Wan Chai district, one of the oldest in the region. Inside, strips of pine wood, painted shrimp red, engulf one of the walls and curve across the ceiling. They emulate the form of Ebisoba Ichigen’s star ingredient and leave diners in the belly of the beast. For A Work of Substance, the repetitive utilisation of symbolism in the design process actively pays tribute to the dish and its two cultures.

In China, red is an important colour: it signifies happiness, vitality, fire – all of which inherently tie to the act of eating. In the rest of the space, they employed a natural colour scheme, honouring Japanese minimalism. The wooden countertops and tables, blonde and sharply linear, invite a unique ageing process by way of sloshed broth and the marks of diners past. Brushed concrete floors and walls contrast the lightness of the furniture, creating an ambient moodiness.

With offices in Paris, Stockholm and Hong Kong, A Work of Substance is no stranger to creating spaces that tell metropolitan narratives in new ways. As Hong Kong’s cityscape evolves, its spaces assume the responsibility of representing heritage, cultural convergence and its people. How better than to begin than on a full belly of ramen?