It's fast-track to fabulous at Shibuya, Yabu Pushelberg's restaurant in Las Vegas
Stephen F. Milioti -- Interior Design, 1/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Nearly any designer can do Vegas. All you have to do is don your sequined thinking cap and channel your inner Siegfried & Roy. With a generous budget and even a modicum of autonomy, you can unleash your creativity and go happily over the top. A more difficult feat, however, is to find a balance between glitz and bliss, fake and natural.
With the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino's new Japanese restaurant, the hospitality pros at Yabu Pushelberg have achieved that magical midpoint. "The design speaks of where Japan is today, forward-thinking yet respecting tradition," principal Glenn Pushelberg explains of Shibuya, named for a fashionable district in Tokyo. Indeed, the 7,000-square-foot L-shape restaurant—the firm's second in Sin City—incorporates futuristic elements with those that are classically Japanese.
The journey begins in the hotel's main level, with Shibuya first glimpsed through a veil of floor-to-ceiling glass panels etched with a "bar-code" detail. Straight ahead, through the entry, the sushi bar's 50-foot-wide focal wall explodes with a changing video show that manages to unify spectacle and subtlety. The wall's surface is composed of mirrored acrylic cubes, placed seemingly at random within a grid. Colors and images come from 18 individual television sets installed behind.
Yabu Pushelberg intentionally used several smaller screens, as opposed to a single large one. "Fragmented images are the magnet for the restaurant," says principal George Yabu. And rather than going with high-resolution plasma or LCD, the architects opted for trusty old technology: In addition to keeping costs under control, the cathode ray tubes cast a 'softer glow on the black-and-white ersatz marble form of the bar below.
Synthetic materials act as accents throughout the space. Horizontal rectangles of pink acrylic are set into the rosewood sliding doors of the semiprivate dining room adjacent to the sushi bar, at the top of the L. In the 150-seat main dining room, the base of the L, a sake "cellar" fills a corner with transparent pink acrylic shelving, and oblong pendant fixtures of clear and frosted pink acrylic hang above the hibachi bar.
A semicircular structure, the hibachi bar offers meat, fish, and vegetable teppanyaki cooked on a grill. Three grills are in operation, and smoke is controlled by stainless-steel hoods—reflected in the bar's polished black marble top.
In every area at Shibuya, synthetic and electronic are tempered by infusions of organic. Tabletops are rough-edged rosewood. Flooring is also primarily rosewood in the sushi bar, gray porcelain tile in the dining rooms. For the latter two spaces, Yabu Pushelberg furthermore commissioned artisans to design a series of sculptural forms in wood.
The same Canadian craftsman designed the geometric stacked wood lanterns, sitting near the sake corner and between tables, and the entire main dining room's pine wall screens, crisscrossing like bamboo strips over a backlit white background. Another craftsman contributed the dining room's ribbonlike vertical plywood trellises, which accentuate the high ceiling, as well as the 'semiprivate room's suspended plywood screens, equally undulating forms that encircle the room's six tables.
Most dramatic—and primal—is the host stand. Standing just to the left of the entry, this monumental form is actually the trunk of a maple transformed by designer John Houshmand, who also made the restaurant's rosewood tabletops. The host stand, placed in its prominent position, is a natural, humanizing touch not often found on the Strip. In consciously artificial, flashing-light Vegas, it's comforting to be able to hug a tree.