Elegant design lets the star of the show shine

It was an intimidating challenge – to design an intimate omakase counter in Hong Kong for Mitsuhiro Araki, the only Japanese chef in the world to have earned three Michelin stars for his signature restaurants in Tokyo and London. But Design East’s Yuki Yasukagawa knew her team had nailed it when the legendary sushi master first set eyes on the elegant 12-seat restaurant. “He loved it,” she recalls.

Located behind an unassuming façade on the ground floor of House 1881 in TST, The Araki is a delicate blend of Japanese and Chinese cultures, inspired by the Tang dynasty when Chinese influence on Japanese architecture had reached its peak.

Sourced directly from Japan, the sushi counter is crafted from hinoki wood that’s over one hundred years old, preserving the traditional Japanese character and turning it into a centrepiece. Yuki explains that hinoki wood is known for its durability and pest resistance, allowing food to be served directly on the counter top.

The design is calm and minimalistic, so that guests can focus on the hero of the piece – the chef and the sushi. “Our aim was to create a tranquil space, removed from the noise and congestion of Canton Road, where diners could switch off and concentrate on the taste, technique and flavour of the amazing food being prepared in front of them.”

Directional lighting above the sushi counter creates privacy and further highlights the food experience, while the bottom of the counter features illuminated washi paper, installed behind clear glass panels.

Long associated with Chinese culture, the colour red features in the carpet flooring and upholstery bringing warmth and contrast to the space. Dark Japanese handwoven wallpaper, typically used in traditional Japanese architecture, adds an element of gravitas.

Other features include an antique Chinese sideboard, stained and waxed by craftsman in the US to match the rest of the space, and a bespoke, dark oak service cabinet, designed using traditional Chinese arts and craft techniques and embellished with iron studs.

Like a good interviewer, the minimal and timeless design lets the subject shine – the master chef at the helm.