Conceived over twenty years ago as an homage to the foods and cultures of Southeast Asia, Wild Ginger was due for an update. The challenge was how to transform the successful concept pioneered in the original, large-format restaurant and evolve it to meet the needs of current dining trends—both for those seeking a more intimate experience as well as satisfying the increased interest in happy hour culture.
Rekindling the spirit of exoticism that inspired the original restaurant, the redesign (which includes a visual rebrand by Hornall Anderson) digs deep into the roots of the cultures that inspired it. The result is a stylistic blend that merges cultural influences with contemporary design to create a casual yet sophisticated atmosphere in which to celebrate food and friends.
“Understanding our client’s history was essential,” notes Kyle Gaffney, principal and co-founder of SkB Architects.
“In order to know how to move forward, we had to know the past. We weren’t interested in creating a thematic experience. Our goal was to create something new—an authentic experience all its own.”
Occupying a deep, narrow 6,000-square-foot space, the challenge for the designers was finding a way to draw people to the back of the restaurant while ensuring that the entire venue provides a unique experience.
The design solution is two-fold: showcase the activity inside by pulling the lounge/bar to the front of the restaurant, open up the interior to the sidewalk through a window wall spanning the front facade—pulls people in and lets energy spill out—and create a dining experience where every seat is special.
“We wanted to reflect the life and vibrancy of the city…to bring the outside in and inside out,” says Gaffney.
The transformative experience begins as guests pass through a teak-shuttered vestibule. Once inside, they are presented with a luminescent bar and lounge with dining spaces beyond. The lounge features comfortable seating arrangements composed of both leather-wrapped bench seating and rattan easy chairs.
The bar appears to be set into a curved niche, seemingly carved out of a large volume of natural plaster. The interior of the niche is finished with silver leaf squares, creating a luxurious, subtly reflective backdrop. The bar top is made of polished teak, while the bar front features a geometrically-inspired tile motif.
Custom-designed lights recall traditional woven fishing baskets.
Moving into the restaurant, slatted teak screens separate cozy booths that line both sides of the dining area. A single row of tables through the center of the space can be arranged to accommodate small groups or aligned to make one long table for a single group.
Polished concrete floors are accented with abstracted oriental area rugs. Lantern-like lights, teak wood coffering, and woven light shades form a subtle nod to Southeast Asia. Large murals inspired by aged oriental carpets are painted directly onto the existing concrete walls, providing a soft, elegant backdrop in the dining areas.
A teak pavilion completes the dining area, serving to draw guests into the space. Custom, sliding wood screens enable the space to morph, transforming the pavilion seating into a private, group dining venue. Windows located behind the pavilion are treated to admit daylight while blocking views to the adjacent auto court, ensuring that the focus is on the food and one’s dining companions.
Changing to meet customer needs throughout the day, Wild Ginger is as much a place to meet with co-workers over a working lunch, as it is to enjoy bespoke cocktails after work, or relax with friends and family over dinner..