This Kaiseki Restaurant is a Thoughtful Tribute to Community and Celebration
Studio Tack designed Tsukimi as an elegant, inviting space that echoes its refined and subtle cuisine
Just 14 seats and an 12-course kaiseki menu: This is what Tsukimi has to offer. Located in New York’s East Village, the bijou Japanese restaurant takes it name from the mid-autumn harvest celebrations of sharing food and sake under the full moon, a tradition intended to promote contemplation, gratitude and togetherness. These values provided the design cues for Brooklyn-based Studio Tack, which is behind both the interiors and branding. ‘While we certainly studied traditional Japanese dining interiors, we were interested in a more eclectic and layered expression, referencing different eras and material palettes,’ says Leigh Salem, partner at Studio Tack.
Both the exterior facade and the 1920s mosaic floor were preserved, bringing an air of timelessness the space. They’re also a reminder of the restaurant’s former life, when executive chef Takanori Akiyama and general manager Karen Lin met and worked together in the very same space many years go.
At just over 60 square metres in size, the design required intelligent use of space and proportions. ‘The space is quite small, so each piece of millwork had to be custom-built for efficiency and multiple uses,’ Salem explains. Two brass counter tables face each other — leaving space in between for a path to the kitchen — and can host seven diners each. The lighting is inspired by an indirect view of the moon, like its reflection in water, for example, that revellers see during the restaurant’s namesake festival. ‘We wanted to create something warm, honest, precise and reflective,’ Salem says. ‘We aimed to create a glowing amber space, hidden behind a somewhat humble and pared-down facade. Each seat is framed by the architecture, creating a ceremonial sequence to the meal. We wanted the space to celebrate a collective dining experience.’
Selected to pair with the flavours on the menu, the dinnerware — ceramics and custom pieces made by Japanese artist Hitori Wada and Brooklyn-based artist Minami Takahashi of Soto Ceramics — rotates seasonally. This selection is complemented by glassware from Japanese KIMOTO GLASS TOKYO, Austrian glassware producer Zalto and a small range of vintage pieces that belonged to Lin’s parents. All these rare and beautiful objects are delicately placed on tables and displayed on shelves, becoming an integral part of the refined interior.
‘We were drawn to the project because of the ownership team and their approach to their craft,’ Salem shares. ‘The menu is grounded in the formal kaiseki tradition, but reinterpreted through a contemporary New York lens. Each dish is a beautiful rendering of the chef’s perspective.’
Traditional forms and materials blend with contemporary detailing throughout, and the result is a peaceful atmosphere where the rituals of sharing and savouring food are celebrated. In Tsukimi, Studio Tack has created an elegant and sensitive tribute to this approach.
Text / Karine Monié
Images / Read McKendree