Dhmaka is an 80-seat restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, completed in February of 2021.
Our client’s brief was to create a restaurant that was fun and representative of Indian “wabi-sabi”—known as “jugaad” in Hindi—the idea that there is art and use in broken things…that the non-conventional can be useful and valuable, a nod to the innovative spirit of humanity.
“Dhamaka” means an explosion…a “bang and blast” that the new venue’s chef is creating with his street-food inspired cuisine. Our design for the restaurant is a bold and kinetic interpretation of these sentiments.
Located in the highly modern setting of New York’s brand-new Essex Market, we also sought to visually express the city’s ongoing movement and change. The wall sculptures provide a “shattered” canvas, shards of objects that hint at a whole, but one that cannot be re-created and instead becomes a sculptural form in its own right. Backlighting makes the sculptural forms float from the wall and emphasizes the negative space between them.
Handmade screens at the kitchen and bathrooms are made of rusted steel in a random triangular geometry, as are the sculptural pendant lights. The bar top and some of the tables are patinaed galvanized metal. The remaining tables are reclaimed oak plank. The dining chairs have a patina on the wood that feels as though they were once painted completely but the finish has worn off. The wood seat of the bar stools is supported by bended rebar. The floors are raw concrete.
The bar area, featuring a bottle-storing “chandelier,” creates a centerpiece for more jugaad, converted from what looks like an old truck wheel or oil barrel. The bottles and back bar mural are painted with Indian icons, motifs, and Hindi phrases. These backlit, decorated bottles bring to mind a myriad collection of bootleg elixirs.
The bar back, on top of the painted mural, has a bottle-supporting, linear wood grill structure that floats off the wall with discreet backlighting. The irregular geometry of this element suggests a gate near an urban graffitied wall.
Dhamaka is dynamic and imaginative, combining forms, colors, and images meant to transport patrons to another world, especially appreciated in this challenging time when travel has been so limited.