OZU East Kitchen, located in the Atwater Village neighbourhood of Los Angeles, is the prototype and initial brand identity for a suite of restaurants focusing on Japanese and Korean-influenced cuisine served in a fast-casual environment. Inspired by the technical craftsmanship and narrative clarity of the art of legendary Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, the restaurant design is a study inthe potential of a minimal, yet visually and materially rich palette to generate an immersive and socially dynamic environment.
The interior experience is delineated by three horizontal spatial zones. The lower zone contains the furnishings that occupants physically interact with – warm in colour and texture. The middle zone is painted white and is free of visual clutter, in order to emphasise the conversational space and interaction between seated occupants. The upper zone – consisting of the transition between the white walls and the dark grey ceiling – sets the mood and presents a detailed visual landscape, while occupants are standing and circulating within the restaurant. The intentional misalignment between these three zones within the composition is used to continuously reposition the occupant’s orientation within the space, disregarding the standard transitions commonly applied and making the environment provisional in nature.
The ceiling installation, intended to evoke the pliability of the ramen noodle and to replace the traditional Japanese lantern, was made from tube steel and suspended high above the dining room. The walnut bento stools and benches were inspired by their functionally minimal namesake, the bento box. Created through the combination of the folded seat and the interlocking base, the bento set is simple and utilitarian, yet warm and associative. The choice of a single, double, or quadruple arrangement encourages a casual and interactive experience. The complementary steel-framed and reclaimed walnut-topped tables serve to facilitate the variety of social dining possibilities.