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Raising the Steaks

   Author: MetalMag
Location: Ormond Beach, FL


WHEN OPENING a new restaurant, most restaurateurs know that great food and friendly service is what keeps diners coming back. But how do you attract a customer for the first time? One way is to dazzle a potential patron's eye before amazing his or her taste buds. This was the strategy for the new Takeya Japanese Steakhouse, Ormond Beach, Fla.

Ormond Beach is a small community located on the northern edge of the greater Daytona Beach area. It was once the winter home of John D. Rockefeller, and its compacted-sand beach hosted some of the first automobile races in the early 20th century. When Chris and Bichnga Bui decided to open a Japanese steakhouse in the picturesque ocean-side town, they knew they wanted to make a visual statement to locals and visitors alike. With the help of a creative team and innovative metal materials, Takeya Japanese Steakhouse shines.

Jacksonville, Fla.,-based designer Noom Romyanond, Intl Assoc. AIA, was hired to create a memorable space inside the new steakhouse. Originally from Bangkok, Thailand, Romyanond took on the challenge to renovate the interior of an old restaurant to meet the high expectations of its new owners. The project required careful attention to matters practical and artistic.

"The goal was to turn an existing Mexican-themed restaurant into a contemporary Japanese steakhouse," Romyanond explains. "My approach to the interior was to create a unique but simple space where visitors can have an experience they can't find in their daily lives."

The project team needed to be aware of many issues related to operating a restaurant where grilling and cooking take place in the dining area.

To create that kind of special interior experience, Romyanond looked to metal. It would provide the kinds of textures and colors he was looking for. "The beauty of metal became one of the most important materials in this project," he says. "Metal gives an image of simplicity and a new era."

Appearance was not the only consideration, however. The project team needed to be aware of many issues related to operating a restaurant where grilling and cooking take place in the dining area. One of those issues, they discovered, was grease.

Like many Japanese steakhouses, Takeya makes use of "tappenyaki" tables. "Tappen" refers to a heated steel plate and "yaki" means "fry". Tappenyaki tables commonly are used in Japanese restaurants where chefs work their tableside magic and prepare meals in front of diners. While the effect is entertaining and delicious, it also creates cleaning and maintenance issues.

"The existing main dining area, where we put the 14 tappenyaki tables, is about 30-feet (9-m) high. A lot of grease is created in the area," Romyanond explains. "The challenge was to find unique materials that would not have an issue with the grease and could be easily cleaned."

After conducting some research, Romyanond discovered that metal would fit the restaurant's practical requirements and his aesthetic vision. "I incorporated metal material into my design and created a suspended ceiling above the tables," he says. "The custom pendant light fixtures, the column cover and the decorative artwork have no problem with the grease generated from the tappenyaki tables."

The renovation incorporates metal in ceiling canopies, custom lighting, illuminated columns with perforated covers, decorative art pieces, hanging mobiles and wall panels. These components come together to create a flowing atmosphere within the restaurant.

The ceiling is a combination of two different metal patterns, one with a clear finish and the other with a champagne-colored finish. The wall panels and bar backsplashes use similar patterns and incorporate a variety of color finishes, including champagne and chocolate. Wall artwork has a recessed metal backdrop, as well.

Internally illuminated 7-foot (2-m) columns are covered with perforated aluminum that has a wave pattern etched into it. The lighting passes through the etched, clear-finished metal and creates a mesmerizing effect in the space. Metal also is used to shroud the six custom light fixtures.

These elements work together to create a dynamic and unusual backdrop that enhances the restaurant's dining experience. The color scheme complements the overall environment and brings movement to the space. Lighting is used with the metal to create an almost holographic effect.

In the planning stage, Romyanond carefully considered how the right materials could achieve the desired expression. "I am very particular about materials and components that I use in all areas," he explains. "I have found art in the nature of each material. Each material has a different meaning and memory that an individual may experience. A smooth finish from a sheet metal, the pattern from a perforated sheet metal, the texture from stone, the peace from old lumber or the reaction with light that translucent materials provide--it has all become a part of my artwork."

But beauty, this designer acknowledges, is in the eye of the beholder. "Some may see the custom pendant light fixtures in the main dining area as a fixture to provide lighting for those spaces. However, some may see that fixture as a hanging sculpture that fascinates them with shape, pattern, size and composition within a large dining space."

The project began in 2004, and Takeya Japanese Steakhouse opened its doors to the public in December 2006. According to Romyanond, installation went smoothly. The main challenge of the project was finding the right metal. "It's very hard to find a fabricator who can fabricate my free-form sculpture and all the custom designs," he admits.

"The beauty of metal became one of the most important materials in this project. Metal gives an image of simplicity and a new era." -Noom Romyanond, Intl Assoc. AIA

To find the right materials partner, he had to look to the other side of the country. "I worked with (the fabricator) in the preliminary phase and during the detail design and fabrication process," Romyanond recalls. "The process went very smoothly, even though we are in Ormond Beach and they are in California. We worked on a 3-D program and built a model to achieve what I had envisioned."

Overall, he is happy with the process and finished product. "We all face issues in the construction business, but if you have a good fabricator and a good installer, you will be able to get through those issues," Romyanond says. "We as designers are responsible for educating the client and getting them to realize how important it is to work with the right companies on their project."

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