Dezeen Magazine

Ryoji Iedokoro turns Tokyo's Nikunotoriko restaurant into indoor cave

Low lighting, rough stone-effect walls and water-like glass floors help create a cave-like atmosphere inside this restaurant in Tokyo designed by architect Ryoji Iedokoro.

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

Situated in Tokyo's bustling Roppongi district, Nikunotoriko has been designed by locally based architect Ryoji Iedokoro.

It offers an alternative take on yakiniku – a Japanese dining style which sees customers grill bite-sized pieces of meat over a small gridiron at their table.

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

"You'll find Japanese yakiniku restaurants everywhere…and it always tastes good, which makes the competition in Japan very high," Iedokoro explained.

"To make a unique restaurant can thus be quite a challenge."

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

Iedokoro decided to create a surreal, cave-like interior that "you would not really find in actual nature". In the main dining room, which is located on the ground floor, walls are made to resemble craggy rock surfaces.

Translucent tiles have then been arranged in a herringbone pattern on the floor to mimic the appearance of flowing water. A 6.5 metre-long glass table that sits at the centre of the room is patterned with wispy brown paint strokes that resemble furls of smoke.

Directly underneath is a shallow trough of gravel intended to make visitors feel like they're "sitting near a river". Lighting has been restricted to just a handful of spotlights embedded in the ceiling.

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

References to the outdoors continue up on the second floor, where a series of raised eating areas have been crafted by staggering undulating panels of OSB – a type of engineered timber that's made by compressing flakes of wood that lie in different directions.

"As the tables are all on different levels, it allows you to have the privacy with your loved ones that makes the dining experience something more memorable and private," added Iedokoro.

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

Each area is enclosed by a circle of floor-to-ceiling steel pipes that are meant to make diners feel as if they are sitting amongst tall trees in a forest, enhanced by the surrounding greenery-lined walls.

The pipes are also fitted with small hooks where coats or bags can be hung, which the architect hopes will "appear like flowers".

Guests sit on simple earth-toned cushions on the floor around the central gridiron.

Nikunotoriko restaurant by Ryoji Iedokoro

Much like Ryoji Iedokoro, Koichi Takada Architects created a grotto-like gift shop inside the National Museum of Qatar earlier this year, which features two soaring, undulating walls.

Michan Architecture also added two huge, drop-down concrete lights to Mexico City's Oku restaurant to form a lowered cave-like ceiling.

Photography is by Satoru Umetsu from Nacasa & Partners.