The design of this restaurant for celebrity "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto in Napa, California required balancing a number of distinct cultural influences.  First, it seemed fitting to celebrate the local wine-growing and culinary traditions of the Napa Valley.  It was also desirable to acknowledge Japanese food and culture, but in a subtle way.  Like the food, the restaurant's form and function should be a new blend of cultural and artistic influences.

To evoke the local wine-growing influence, ancient grape vines were sought out to be used as art pieces within the restaurant.  Rather than focusing on the colorful fruit or leaves, large, weathered old vines suggest permanence and tradition. 

The vines were then installed in strategic locations throughout the restaurant.  On the left, Thomas Schoos directs the installation above the bar area.

The scenic local terrain was even considered when constructing furniture and fixtures for the restaurant.  Here, a long banquette was designed to mirror the rolling hills of Napa Valley.  The vine art installed above reinforces the reference.

This motif of the ancient vine was continued throughout the restaurant, including on branded items such as the menu covers and on the home page of the website.

Another symbol of agriculture and local tradition comes in the form of the weathered wood as seen in the old barns dotting the countryside and well-worn farming implements.  In addition to actual reclaimed wood, which is used in many of the restaurant's furniture pieces, concrete elements were imprinted with wood grain textures, to give a warmer, more natural ambience.

As a direct reference to rustic rural textures, stacked pieces of reclaimed wood and lumber are turned into console tables and dividing walls, becoming free floating as they rise toward the ceiling.  These creations are redolent not only of barn walls but also of stacked firewood that one might see outside many country homes.  Here we see the original concept sketch and two finished pieces.

Sometimes during the design process, an original concept evolves.  Here, the earlier stacked wood dividing wall idea is developed into another art installation with rustic reclaimed wood beams decorating the wall of the private dining room.

The influence of Japanese cuisine is brought into the design through the use of images like this one.  This massive wall mural of fish resting on a bed of ice is reminiscent of open air Japanese fish markets, with all their color and sensuality.

The aura of the Asian fish market is also reflected in the physical layout of the restaurant, which leads diners directly by the open kitchen in order to reach the dining rooms.  The excitement and drama of the chefs at work is evocative of the colors, sights and sounds of Japanese markets and restaurants.

Finally, a warm, comfortable vibe is conjured by the autumnal palette that is used throughout, with rich browns, greys and yellow accents.  A number of chairs are upholstered in bright yellow and a large tinted window gives a warm yellow glow to the room beyond, as though lit by a country sunset.

Be sure to visit our Portfolio section for a complete tour of Morimoto Napa!