When greymatters pulled out all the stops for a world-famous chef’s first foray into Vietnam. It’s Housed in one of Asia’s most visually inspiring hotels, the JW Marriott Hanoi. The main building is designed by Carlos Zapata who designed the building to be a Vietnamese dragon, which is a very auspicious animal in Vietnamese culture. There was a Dragon in place already, and Akira was born in 1974, which is the Year Of The Tiger.
In Korean, ‘Back’ translates to the colour white, so he’s a White Tiger – we came up with this concept called ‘Tiger Meets Dragon’, which we based our designs around for the restaurant, to reference the building and call attention to how the new restaurant would sit within it. Back gave the design team an open-ended brief, the only stipulation being he wanted it to be “the wildest” restaurant in his portfolio. We played with the idea of it being a kind of funhouse, with mirrors and reflections. It’s very dark and moody.
There were several elements that Back wanted featured in the design, including the use of a “vortex”, a concept that appears in all of his restaurants. That usually plays out with the use of concentric circles, but we took it to the next level and included an actual vortex in the corridor. We also used mirrors to give the corridor a disorientating effect, playing off a “shattered mirror” idea. Mirrors are used throughout the restaurant, on ceilings, walls and in lighting features, and have been incorporated into another element Back wanted included – artwork from his artist mother, Young Hee Back, whose designs, as well as one of her recipes, feature in all his restaurants.
Everything, from the artwork, the use of colour in the carpet and furnishings, and the use of multifarious mirrored spaces, says ‘bold’ and ‘adventurous.’ But it all works seamlessly, lending a sense of drama to the venue which befits the exciting Korean/Japanese cuisine on show. The team delivered Back’s unusual brief. It ticked the box in his portfolio of being the craziest, wildest, loudest restaurant for Chef Akira.