A Taste of Shangri-La pix
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 12/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Chairs inspired by Eero Saarinen and a vinyl-upholstered banquette sit on a hand-tufted carpet.
A column of polished stainless steel penetrates the sushi-sashimi station.
Tubes of polished stainless line a hallway.
Too many American buffets are all-you-can-eat pork-outs, with rubbery wings sitting for hours in extra-large chafing dishes. In Asia, however, street food and outdoor markets are part of the culture, and self-service dining is often an upscale translation. Eating at the best Asian buffets, explains Tihany Design principal Adam D. Tihany, is not dissimilar from strolling through Gucci: "See. . .grab." The restaurants also bring a mélange of chefs and cuisines together, appealing to multiethnic appetites at a crossroads such as Singapore.
Asked to rejuvenate a smart-casual poolside restaurant at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel, Tihany translated Asian market-style buffets for an international clientele. His well lit, pared-down interior keeps the focus on the high quality of the food. The openness of the kitchens, where diners can talk to chefs while they cook, reinforces the message of purity and freshness. With a quick glance, you can see that the restaurant has nothing to hide.
Diners arrive down a reconfigured stair, now sheathed in white marble. Just beyond the maître d' is a succulent "crustacean station" with bright-red lobsters arranged on crushed ice up-lit by fluorescents. The other stations don't follow one after the other in the conveyor-belt mode of old-style Las Vegas buffets. Rather, Tihany imagined islands of food interspersed with dining tables.
To tie the different areas together, he drew an impressionistic zigzag across the ceiling—a line that also plays on the restaurant's new name, the Line. "It started as a doodle and ended up as an architectural element," he says of the intervention, which he built out of orange frosted-glass light boxes. "It's not a yellow brick road, but you can use it as a trail." One that links Western fare to tandoori chicken, noodle soup, sushi and sashimi, dim sum, and Thai salads. (Cue the cool swirling mist, the work of a concealed fog machine.)
Tihany called in his filmmaker son, Bram, to create videos that loop on flat-screen monitors placed strategically near four of the food stations. Lasting up to 10 minutes, each piece conveys a low-key ecological message about nature and food. The kaleidoscopic video on wine, for example, starts in an unspoiled vineyard; one about seafood features rainbow schools of fish.
The videos are decorative and educational in equal parts. "You definitely notice, but you don't have to watch," Tihany says. Just help yourself to as much of the message as you like.