The Basho Sushi House sits in a compact 25-square-metre shop unit on the outskirts of Porto.
"Our intention was to give a little magic atmosphere to such tiny space, working the restaurant and providing its clients a comfortable experience with the whole, not only while eating but also when viewing the cooking process," said Merlini.
His intention was to highlight the role of the sushi chef, who can be viewed at work in the kitchen from the dining space in front.
Not wanting to distract from the preparation of the raw seafood dishes, Merlini decided the ceiling would be the optimum place for a design feature.
He therefore suspended 8,400 chopsticks – commonly used as utensils for eating Asian cuisine – to create an undulating installation above customers' heads.
The architect likens the feature to a "structured cloud" that suggests "the profile of a Japanese temple".
Walls are kept dark, while wood is used for flooring and sparse furnishings.
"The colour scheme was chosen in full respect of traditional aesthetic of the Japanese composition of visual elements," Merlini said. "Shadow plays an important role underlining the balance and the equilibrium of the architectonic harmonies."
Basho Sushi House took home one of the prizes in the Restaurants category at the 2016 A+Awards.
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