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Designer Dining: Wasabi Layalina and Wasabi Point 5

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Wasabi

Located within a heritage area on the Kuwaiti Corniche, Wasabi Point 5 is a brand new restaurant in the Middle East that is serving up delicious Japanese cuisine.

Owned and managed by the Epicure Group, a food and beverage subsidiary of the Sultan Group, Wasabi Point 5 has opened simultaneously alongside Wasabi Layalina and marks a turning point for the brand.

Forum Interiors was the main contractor on Wasabi Layalina and Point 5, whilst Dubai headquartered Thomas Klein International (TKI) and its Chicago architectural office PS Studio   designed the interiors for the restaurant.

Thomas Klein International Managing Director, Daniel During, said:

“Epicure Group has five Wasabi restaurants in the Middle East and recently the group decided that they wanted to upgrade the sites to remarket and reposition the brand.

“The Group knew exactly what they wanted to achieve with the new design, so TKI worked with the restaurant’s existing team of chefs to create an environment that enhanced the concept and help re-establish the brand.

“Once opened, the new Wasabi restaurant will set the benchmark in design for any additional Wasabi outlets, and all the existing Wasabi outlets will be transformed to match the new brand and positioning.”

Wasabi

Taking inspiration from traditional Japanese art forms – Origami (folding), Kirigami (cutting) and print making – and the wasabi root, Wasabi’s interior design has been developed to present a unique and memorable experience.

Architect Eric Schall, explained:

“The design concepts for the restaurant were developed at Wasabi Layalina, the brand’s signature restaurant, and further transformed for the Wasabi Point 5 location.

“We have used three traditional and sophisticated Japanese art forms of paper manipulation and print making as inspiration for the design of the restaurant. The ancient art techniques of Origami and Kirigami are used both literally and metaphorically in crafting multiple spaces in the restaurant.

“We wanted to create separate areas within the Wasabi restaurants to provide three very different atmospheres, so we created three folds in the interior space. The first fold was inspired by Origami and defines the entrance.  This undulating and creased fold literally wraps around the space from floor to wall to ceiling and back to the floor. It is formed by flat panels of pressed linear bamboo strips, an ecologically conscious material made of renewable resources that is also incredibly strong, lightweight and durable.

Wasabi

“The second fold defines the lofty and light filled two storey connection between the first floor and the second floor at the heart of the restaurant.  It also spatially connects the ground floor seating area to the grill and the sushi counter. The design of this metal fold interprets the traditional techniques of Kirigami in a modern way.  The design and fabrication was controlled digitally which allowed us greater control over the pattern and the effects of light and shadow on the surface and in the space. The surface of the metal was laser cut and etched and then assembled and folded to create the wall.

“The third fold is a printed textile fold which recalls the printed shoji screen. The image of a mature tree literally wraps the floor, wall and ceiling of the second floor dining area connecting to the outside dining terrace.”

Work began on Wasabi Layalina in May 2011 and whilst the exterior of the existing building underwent only minor alterations, the internal layout of the building was completely transformed. The internal layout is spread across two floors and features a mixture of dining options. On the ground floor diners can either choose to sit at stand alone tables or at benches and communal tables with stools, whilst a central atrium provides 24 additional covers.

On the second floor, two private dining rooms offer a more intimate eating experience. The dining rooms are separated by a movable partition which can be opened up to combine both rooms into one large dining area. In addition, a private terrace offers uninterrupted views and the option for 48 guests to dine outdoors.

Wasabi

A noticeable highlight of the external terrace is the inclusion of calming pools, hydroponic beds for growing wasabi plants, and additional water features. Dehumidifiers and condensers have also been incorporated on the terrace so that water can be collected and recycled to refill pools and water plants.

In addition to these environmentally friendly features, the main materials used in the restaurant are made from recycled or renewable materials.

Architect Paula Palombo, said:

“For the Wasabi Point 5 site we chose to highlight a single folding technique utilizing textiles to unify the long curving space. The radial geometry of the restaurant resembles the Japanese hand fan and inspired the use of pleated and printed fabric in the choice of window coverings, light fixtures and movable partitions.

“All of the window coverings are pleated and can be raised and lowered to achieve the desired atmosphere and open views to the sea. The light fixtures also have pleated fabric, but with a unique shape that adds a new dimension to a familiar shade.

“We created a dynamic, colourful backdrop using a three-dimensional ceramic series called ‘Bamboo’. The cylindrical ceramic rods are positioned at various angles and depths along the curved wall to create a rich visual texture of light, shadow and colour.

“We also incorporated Torii Chairs by Bensen in the restaurant design, as the design of the chairs is inspired by the traditional wood entrance arches to the Shinto shrines in Japan. These simple yet subtly sophisticated wooden chairs provide a definite sense of harmony and calm within the space.”

Paula Palombo added:

“Wasabi is a project that is very close to our hearts at Thomas Klein Group. In developing the concept and creating the physical space of the restaurant we were not trying to imitate the origami, but rather define the spaces with a strong material presence and at a scale that is entirely unique.

“Also of critical importance to us as designers was the full integration of the concept of folding into a building system incorporating all the realities of structure, acoustics, lighting and even the supply of conditioned air. The simple fold, for example, in a metal panel has an aesthetic effect but more importantly it strengthens the panel immensely.

“This is a system that works and now that we have put this system into use we have a great feeling of accomplishment within our company.”

Thomas Klein Group Managing Director, Daniel During, added:

“If you want to open a hotel, you go to a hotel chain and they will manage the whole design process and construction process. They will speak to different designers and chefs to look at different concepts and come up with a hotel that meets the needs of the market.

“At Thomas Klein Group we provide a similar service for the food and beverage business. We provide investors with a business plan, we create a concept based on the research and the market and then we look at brand positioning and we start developing interiors and a product range.

“We develop the product alongside the interiors – including seating, tables and dining ware – so that everything works in synergy. We have three very distinctive teams: branding and marketing specialists, a team of architects and chefs that all work on the product.

“In addition a fourth team works on the technical equipment, including all aspects of the kitchen. All of this is then delivered to the client as a package and we supervise the design, the production of branded items and the product development.

“We have offices worldwide and most of our clients are in the Middle East. We have completed two sites now for Epicure Group and we are currently working on the third site in the Wasabi portfolio.”

Forum Interiors W.L.L

Forum Interiors W.L.L is a fit-out specialist providing services for offices and retail outlets. The company has several branches covering interior design work and indoor and outdoor printing and has provided services for Yusif Al Ghanim (YAAS)(Chevrolet/Cadillac), Wataniya Airways, Sultan Group and Aja Holding Group.

Forum Interiors W.L.L was the main contractor on Wasabi Point 5 and completed all of the internal fit-out works for the restaurant. The company fitted the metal and wood folds, conducted all of the mechanical engineering works, installed electrical and safety items and furniture and counters. Forum Interiors W.L.L also completed all glass work within the restaurant.

Forum Interiors W.L.L CEO, Yasser Atta, said:

“This was the first time that we have worked with Wasabi and it was very important for us to be involved with such a high profile brand.

“We are involved with four additional Multinational Restaurants in the Middle East and this is something we’re very pleased to be a part of.”

Yasser Atta added:

“At Forum Interiors W.L.L we are proud of our ability to create and maintain a high standard of values so that our hopes and our clients’ outspoken and hidden necessities meet harmoniously.”

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