Shanghai – Omakase, a new kaiseki restaurant in Shanghai, looks like a hidden level on a video game. Seemingly crafted from gold-and-pink virtual blocks, the 140-sq-m space is masterfully lit; a world unto itself. To make it so, local design team Hip-pop referred to ‘Sakura rain’ – or the feeling of Japanese cherry blossoms falling gently upon one – as a starting point for their ‘labyrinth’.
This isn’t the first project we’ve published this year that’s taken interior cues from the world of cherry blossoms. Recently, a new ramen eatery in Sydney opened its doors, revealing to the public a tunnel-like passage with petals projected onto pink-and-blue colour-blocked surfaces.
While the two spaces indeed exist in a homogeneous aesthetic vein, the visual environment of Omakase veers toward hyper-reality. This was intentional – Hip-pop wanted to create a romantic, poetic space that would make each diner feel as if they were a character in the scenery. Earlier this year, the design studio took a similar approach to dynamic lighting in creating Jiyu Spa, an illusory, dreamlike refuge in Shanghai.
The effect is in kin too: Omakase champions total immersion, fantastically delivering a natural experience in a synthetic, spatial format. Painted Sakura blossoms and dewdrops appear to be permanently captured in glass partitions that surround the dining areas, and there seems to be no end to the phantasm.
The promise of momentary ‘escape’ is perhaps one of the reasons why, from hospitality to retail, we’re increasingly seeing maximalist spaces trumping the minimal. Using lighting in lieu of gilding, Omakase is certainly maximalist in its own way: it gives permission for diners to get lost in their senses for a moment or two – a luxury in its own right these days.