Set above a convenience store in the city's Harajuku neighbourhood, Burnside is a casual restaurant by day and a bar and lounge by night.
The space was designed with flexibility in mind, as it will host a rotating roster of chefs and be used for a wide variety of pop-ups and events. It comprises a 30-person dining room with an open kitchen, all decorated using a dark material palette with amber-coloured accents.
The eatery, which marks Snøhetta's first project opening in Tokyo, was designed for art and design collective En One Tokyo, with help from local construction partner Kooo Architects and Ghetto Gastro – an ensemble of chefs that specialises in immersive dining experiences.
"Using food to empower communities, Ghetto Gastro celebrates the Bronx as an inspiration and catalyst of global culture," explained the practice. "Burnside builds upon this creative energy where the Bronx and Tokyo meet."
Black was chosen as the predominant colour, referencing the dark atmosphere of Tokyo's izakaya bars and the characteristic finish of Shou Sugi Ban charred wood. At the same time, it represents Ghetto Gastro's culinary style, which it describes as "Black Power Kitchen."
Together, the team wanted to build a dining experience that combines the intimacy of a bar with the easy informality of convenience stores, whether New York's bodegas or Japanese conbinis.
Sound designer Devon Turnbull, who goes by Ojas, designed a bespoke sound system for the space while local flower artist Makoto Azuma created a series of floral sculptures that are displayed behind glass in the dining area.
Guests arrive at the eatery via a staircase that takes them from the street to the second floor. Once inside, the eye is drawn towards the open kitchen by a curved amber-coloured light strip that runs along the ceiling.
The space is divided by two intersecting arches, delineating the dining area and kitchen while still allowing views across both spaces.
A set of steps lead up into the open kitchen as if it were a stage, framed by curved walls that suggest the proscenium arch of a theatre. A central table in the kitchen is the focal point of the entire room, transforming the food preparation into a performance.
A flexible kitchen layout was designed to adapt to the needs of a rotating roster of chefs. It can also be used as a space to dine and eat, or closed off to become a temporary gallery with the help of a curved, sliding partition hidden within the proscenium arch.
"The transition between day and night, cafe and lounge, is a driving theme for the interior design," explained Snøhetta. "A dark material palette features amber-coloured accents that reflect the changing light throughout the day while highlighting more ornate design elements such as the floral sculptures designed by Makoto Azuma."
Custom-designed, family-style tables maximise the limited floor space and can be joined together or folded away to allow for a variety of layouts including a dance floor for late-night events.
Other dark restaurant interiors include central London's Lucky Cat restaurant, where design studio AfroditiKrassa hoped to create a space that looks better in person than in pictures, and Shenzhen's Voisin Organique restaurant, which Various Associates designed to resemble a gloomy valley.