A Feast for the Eyes

While most chefs cook with a sense of place, it’s up to the restaurant interior designer to reinforce what this “place” is. Here’s how two unique and pleasant Honolulu restaurants provide a context for their menus.


The food at Kaiwa is modern Japanese; reflecting this, designer Ken Numatani created a predominantly Japanese ambiance with futuristic touches. Vibrant Japanese prints are draped from the ceiling and stretched behind the teppan grill. Water and land come together, not only on the menu, which features fresh seafood and meats, but also in the dining room, where rain appears to fall along a brown tiled wall (they’re actually oil droplets traveling along clear strands). Beneath your feet, as you move to the back of the restaurant, the wood floor gives way to glass, showcasing a Zen sandbox below. 226 Lewers St., 924-1555, kai-wa.com.

Tangö Contemporary Café

The Scandinavian design aesthetic and philosophy applies to Tangö Contemporary Café’s interior as well as the food: clean, simple, accessible. Panels along one wall feature Marimekko prints, and the Danish-designed pendant lamps in the restaurant are made from pieces that interlock, changing shape depending upon how you put them together: oval, egg or round. Michael Muromoto, architect at Design Partners Incorporated, constructed other details to capture chef Göran Streng’s memories of his native Finland. There are the white birch-tree trunks that act as a divider, reminiscent of stark white trees in a Finnish winter. The picnic tables, about which Muromoto admits to initially thinking, “It’s going to be kind of weird to have picnic tables in the restaurant,” have been a success and diners enjoy sitting at them. 1288 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 120, 593-7288, tangocafe.hawaii.com.