Malabar

Malabar

Designer
STUDIO DOHO
Location
Shanghai, China | View Map
Project Year
2021
Category
Bars

Restaurants
Marius Ionita

Renovated Spanish-Japanese fusion restaurant with a contemporary approach

STUDIO DOHO as Interior Designers

STUDIO DOHO was commissioned to design the new Malabar in Shanghai. The existing bar wanted to reinvent itself as a premium, upscale eatery that focuses on a fusion of Spanish and Japanese cuisine.

photo_credit Brian Chua
Brian Chua

'We wanted to keep it a contemporary modern venue with only a subtle reference to Japanese elements. Inspiration comes from the history of the brand and the austere repetitiveness of Japanese patterns, coupled with the warmth and welcoming feeling of Spanish culture,' said Xin and Jason from STUDIO DOHO.

photo_credit Marius Ionita
Marius Ionita

Project Background
Sakaba Malabar is located on the street front of an old Shanghai Shikumen inspired facade on Wuding Road, where a few famous western bars and restaurants have settled for years. The old Malabar, a well-known Spanish street-style restaurant and bar, had been in business for 9 years before deciding to change the concept to more mature version of its previous self. The owner decided to carry out a thorough renovation to create a new, unique concept for the restaurant, that is cool and sophisticated, but still offers a welcoming feeling.The previous space was a typical bistro street style. Scattered tables and chairs occupy the dining area with a bar located on the side, a very casual vibe that placed more emphasis on the drinks rather than the interior design.

photo_credit Marius Ionita
Marius Ionita
photo_credit Marius Ionita
Marius Ionita

Optimized Spatial Planning 
'The existing space had a central column, which dictated the layout of the re-design.  It was difficult to fit the full program in the small space, but we worked closely with the owners to optimize every centimeter,' explained Xin.To adopt a completely new spatial arrangement, DOHO inserted a U-shaped bar occupying the center and becomes the main social spot and visual focus. The bar accommodates 20 people and gives guests an intimate atmosphere, providing a fun interplay between diners, servers, and the kitchen. The adjacent side accommodates another 20 diners, offering a slightly more private dining environment. The backrest is wrapped in vintage leather to bring a feeling of relaxation and comfort. On the side of the entrance, a small lounge area is also set up for late-night guests have a cozy place to drink and chat.

photo_credit Brian Chua
Brian Chua

Sophisticated Material Palette
Despite the strong cultural identity and story of the restaurant, the overall material palette is deliberately more neutral with the contemporary materials such as perforated metal, aged leather, vintage mirror, and glass. The cultural character only plays subtly in the whole design. Grey bricks on the sidewall of the space creates a neutral backdrop which is overlayed with textures, patterns and graphics. The hollow partition wall is also made of bricks at the back serves as a dark feature and backdrop to the space; the pattern is a reference to traditional Japanese interior dividers.Mirrors and glass were largely used to make the restaurant feel brighter and more spacious as well as suitable but also serve as a writing surface to promote wine and sake specials, as well as fun messages-a wink to the spirit and vibe of the original Malabar. Jason elaborated that 'materiality was a key consideration in the project.  This mix of strong materials such as black brick creates a canvas for lighter materials, including leather and glass, to create a level of sophistication.'

photo_credit Brian Chua
Brian Chua
photo_credit Brian Chua
Brian Chua

Integrated Custom Elements
With a row of built-in wine cabinets on the left, the arched opening is intended to highlight a curated selection of wines and sake. The arch also softens the industrial feeling of some displays and breaks down the scale of the wall.The Spanish paving and color inherit the DNA of the old Malabar, with patterns symbolic in shape and style integrated with a Japanese twist.  A custom designed pattern floor tile was installed in the dining area, while the area around the bar utilizes a dark-toned wood installed with a chevron pattern.With a brand-new upgraded menu that is more refined and diverse, and the small details that pay tribute to the crew, seem to remind us that the core of a long-standing restaurant is its food and people. We hope to capture the soul by creating the atmosphere with design, giving an experience that ages gracefully.

photo_credit Marius Ionita
Marius Ionita

Team:
Designer: STUDIO DOHO
Lead Architects: Xin Dogterom, Jason Holland
Design team: Amy Yan, Wendi Zhao
Photography: Marius Ionita, Brian Chua
Drawing and Diagrams: STUDIO DOHO

photo_credit Brian Chua
Brian Chua
photo_credit STUDIO DOHO
STUDIO DOHO
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