Renowned designer Phillipe Starck has his sights on Houston for the newest branch of Katsuya by Starck, the Los Angeles-born restaurant known as much for its interior as for its innovative cuisine from master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi.
While still very much under construction at the time of CultureMap's recent grand tour, key design elements were beginning to emerge at the upcoming resto-lounge's location at West Ave in River Oaks — the pitched ceilings resembling an ultramodern teahouse, the sequestered booths of the Dragon Lounge, the combination sushi bar and robata grill.
"Phillipe told us he based the layout on the design of a bento box," explained Grace Chow, who directs restaurant openings for Katsuya parent company sbe. "As a whole, the space has been divided into four interlocking spaces."
"The interior is designed to work with the food, to help create different dining experiences throughout the restaurant," said Matt Erickson, vice president of restaurant operations for Katsuya parent company sbe.
Guests enter the front door into a causal bar that's anchored by a massive block of clear Lucite plastic into which sushi knives have been suspended. To the right, is a cozy-yet-ultramodern lounge and to the left, the main dining room with a separate private party area with its own exclusive entrance.
"The interior is designed to work with the food, to help create different dining experiences throughout the restaurant," said Matt Erickson, sbe's vice president of restaurant operations. "You'll be able to get the same full menu everywhere, regardless of where you're sitting."
With signature plates like yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño and miso-marinated cod, chef Uechi is know for taking traditional Japanese food into subtle new directions with the infusion of American culinary staples. He plans a similar menu to his southern California restaurants, but with several entrees tailor-made to spark conversations among Houston foodies.
"Most dishes are served family-style so people will be able to share the food and talk about," Erickson said. "It's not uncommon to see guests at different tables... total strangers, just chatting about their meals together."
Katsuya by Starck marks the first major endeavor for sbe's Houston-based business partners, GEG Group — a hospitality and entertainment company created in 2010 by Ali Ansari, president of gourmet coffee supplier Freshbrew, and Charming Charlie founder Charles Chanaratsopon.
"We go to Katsuya almost the second we arrive in LA," said Ansari. "It's just a totally different kind of atmosphere inside, a different experience. We're excited to bring it to our own city now."
GEG and sbe plan to open five other Katsuya locations throughout Texas by 2017, all with designs from Starck. The first Houston location is slated to open later this month.