In February, Katsuya, a Los Angeles sushi institution beloved by the Hollywood set, made its New York debut at Manhattan West, a 7-million-square-foot portion of the Hudson Yards development. The restaurant is one of two full-service fine-dining establishments within Citizens, an upscale food hall designed by Rockwell Group that occupies the entire second floor of a new 17-story office building.
The new outpost marked a first for Katsuya, which was founded by master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi in 2006. Because it was new to the food hall typology, the restaurant decided it needed a daring look to match. “Often times, American-Japanese restaurants are very minimalist with pared-down decor,” said Greg Keffer, Rockwell’s partner-in-charge of the project. “We decided to go the maximalism route instead.”
Keffer’s team pulled from several Japanese aesthetic traditions to drive the design, ranging from kumiki (wood joinery) and urushi (lacquer) to kabuki (theater) and sumi-e (ink painting).
Bespoke spatial elements derived from these themes lend the eatery a theatrical drama, as summed up in the communal dining room at the restaurant’s core. Translucent glass screens, held in place by a lattice steel structure suspended from the ceiling, occur at spaced intervals. Diners are seen and obscured at the same time.
A 15-seat sushi bar with a wraparound countertop offers up a different mood. A mural behind the bar, set within a curved black lacquered frame, portrays a geisha surrounded by colorful fans, which repeat as a graphic motif.
Glossy lacquered portals, mirrored chandeliers, and checkered wooden floors all evoke Deco aesthetics, as does the prominent crimson red applied throughout the interiors. Bold Rockwell-designed wallcoverings further enliven the space and continue the folding fan motif. In typical fashion, the firm custom-made many of the furnishings, including banquettes and light fixtures.
The kitchen, including Katsuya’s signature robata grill, is on display in a rear dining area. Here, another curved portal leads to a private room and a sizeable outdoor terrace. Weather permitting, the terrace expands seating to 305 guests across a total 7,000 square feet. Visitors will likely flock to Katsuya for its celebrity cachet, but Rockwell’s well-executed design is sure to attract a following of its own.