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Online Exclusive - Neta, New York

Jul 5, 2012

By Ashleigh VanHouten


West Village sushi restaurant Neta was primed for success since its opening in March, backed by Masa and Bar Masa alums Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau. Richard Bloch of New York-based design firm Richard Bloch Architect knew the chefs after working on their other restaurants, and says that while visiting various potential sites around Manhattan and discussing possibilities for the new restaurant with Kim, they “created a common design vocabulary between chef and designer that made smoother the actual design process.” Regarding the design brief, Bloch says that the focus, “as with many chef/owner restaurants, is on the plate. There are no distractions. The design is gentle and extremely simple.”

To achieve the clean, unobtrusive aesthetic of shibui, the designer incorporated little decoration save for thin wood shelves suspended from the ceiling and simple linen baffles over the counter recalling the iconic Japanese lantern. The color scheme consists of shades of white and gray with a contrasting thin red strip along the walls, made from the backsides of simple concrete panels to mimic juraku, or Japanese stucco walls. Charcoal gray granite floors act as a calm foil for the maple tabletops. “The central maple counter features ebony rectangles inlaid in a random pattern that was inspired by a Japanese bowl I found in Tokyo the morning of the great Tohoko earthquake,” Bloch explains, describing one of the central features of the small, 44-seat space.

“The existing restaurant was a near gut renovation,” Bloch adds. “We removed everything back to the brick walls with the exception of the existing hood and exhaust ducts…this component is often one of the most expensive single systems in a restaurant and budget constraints demanded that they remain. The design needed to accommodate the hood location, which determined the kitchen location.”

Ultimately, the almost extreme minimalism of Neta allows the color, drama, and sensation of Japanese cuisine shine through—a feel that is decidedly omakase, or chef’s choice (which comes highly recommended at Neta, by the way). Says Bloch, “The primary experience is between chef and guest across a simple counter, with as few interruptions as possible.”

    






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