Miyake Restaurant was turning away customers every night from its tiny “hole in the wall” location in Portland, Maine’s West End neighborhood. The restaurant had attracted national attention and critical acclaim for its innovative, personalized sushi menu, but their kitchen was too small for two chefs to work at the same time, and the 20-seat dining room was no match for the lines out the door.
Owner and Chef Masa Miyake came to Kaplan Thompson Architects with dreams of building a restaurant that would finally match up to the imaginative and delightful food he was serving. His team needed a space that could convey the themes unique to Masa’s restaurant: creative, elegant foods created with the highest level of craft and care.
The new Miyake restaurant is an island of serenity in Portland’s busy Old Port—a quiet and serious space where the attention and focus are on the dining experience. In the tradition of every fine sushi restaurant, the best seats in the house are at the high bar, where diners are served by chefs at work in front of them.
Miyake today is cool, tranquil, and composed, a restful antidote to the typical frenzy of a contemporary sushi restaurant. A 100-year-old reclaimed pickle barrel wood bar top built by local craftsmen hides the expected trappings of a turbulent restaurant—there is no glass sushi case, and no visible glass bottles or stemware, and the only obvious lighting is a few glowing pendants over the bar.
The restaurant evokes the feeling of a calm vessel moving over water at sunset in winter, with high-backed deep red banquettes sheltering patrons, and gently back-lit custom textiles glowing at the top of the walls. A custom CNC-milled birch plywood ceiling suggests a forest canopy, concealing the messy reality of a low-ceilinged commercial space from diners.