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Japanese atmospherics: Ishizuka by Russell & George

Creating a sensory dining experience that fuses Japanese and Australian culture – rather than a “mock tradition” – Ishizuka by Russell & George transports diners while keeping their feet on the ground.

The obvious solution is seldom exciting. When the Japanese restaurant Ishizuka opened in Melbourne, the easiest design conceit would have been to pump it full of tradition – a direct visual link to the Kaiseki-style menu. But the team at Russell & George preferred a more distinctive point of view, opting instead for a playful, hybrid setting for a decidedly non-hybrid menu. “As the Melbourne context is a global one, we [knew] mock tradition wouldn’t work because a savvy diner can just go to Tokyo for that experience,” says Ryan Russell, director at Russell & George. “Evoking a memory of Japan was the starting point, but one that would be more atmospheric than literal.”

A large, egg-shaped lantern greets diners and cocoons the space with its encompassing scale, back-lighting a pattern of floral shadows. Beneath this, a subtly raised floor provides an important function – unusual in Kaiseki dining – of allowing guests to sit on chairs rather than raised bar stools. Throughout the darkly lit space, reimagined Japanese motifs are overlaid with references to more natural Australian landscapes. Traditional details are tempered with the relaxed dining overtures of the local context. The result of this precise yet abstracted pairing of cultures is an unexpected, unique and complete ode to not one, but two types of richness.

Photography by Felix Forest. 

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