Kaikaya, Spain

Images: Luis Beltran

Spain’s award winning creative consultancy, Masquespacio, has designed Kaikaya, the first tropical sushi restaurant in Valencia.

Inspired by the owner’s personal experiences living in Brazil and Portugal, the restaurant strikes the perfect balance between Japanese and Brazilian culture.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the first Japanese migrants arrived in Brazil to work in the coffee plantations and it was clear that the two cultures diets were vastly different.

Seeking their own flavours, the Japanese migrants combined the food of both cultures to create the Nikkei Nipo-Brazilian style. This style of cooking reached international fame and is still celebrated a century later.

This fusion of Japanese and Brazilian culture was an important part of the client’s brief. They wanted the design of the space to match the fusion of food between the two cultures.

Masquespacio’s Ana Hernandez told darc: “We connected with the client from the beginning and so it was easy to create the unique design she was looking for. The biggest challenge we faced was in finding suppliers who could produce the custom-made design we needed at a reasonable price.”

Masquespacio rose to this challenge and in terms of the lighting, managed to produce all the custom-designed pieces locally.

The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is the raffia circle lights that represent the hats used during Japanese rice collection. These are merged in an explosive way with colourful mosaic tiles and tropical plants.

“Decorative lighting was one of the key elements of the project,” says Hernandez. “From one side, we have the hanging lamps inspired by Japanese fans and on the other side we have Brazil-inspired parrot lamps. Both show a clear mix between the two countries.

“Almost all the lights were designed by our studio for this specific project and produced by local carpenter, Joalpa. The only other lights used were functional spots and LED strips by Onok Lighting.”

Once you reach the bar you encounter the mix of Japanese and Brazilian culture with a Japanese pattern on the bar itself and coloured patterns inspired by 70s Brazil.

The decorative lighting fit the client’s brief of mixing Japanese and Brazilian designs.

Japanese inspired lights surround the bar, while Brazil-inspired parrot lamps light up the counter bar, and the upper floor of the restaurant has a mixture of Japanese and Brazil-inspired decorative light designs.

These fixtures were teamed with architectural lighting so that the space could be illuminated to the exact levels required.

“The few interventions with the architectural lighting are mainly in place to add more light for cleaning but it also fits the idea we had from the beginning to create a space with dimmed light to create a warm atmosphere,” continues Hernandez.

The installation of the fixtures wasn’t plain sailing though, as the team were briefed by the client to maintain the original ceilings, beams and brickwork of the building as Hernandez explains.

“As we didn’t touch the original ceiling and beams it was not always possible to hang the lamps exactly where we wanted. We needed to have this in mind before starting to draw the layout of tables and seating options.”

Reflecting on the project, she continues: “We like the mix of lamps that represent Japan and Brazil but maybe we would have made the ones around the seating areas more authentic.

“It was one of our most custom-made, and maybe colourful, projects we have designed this year as the client was looking for something explosive and overwhelming.

“We managed to mix Japanese minimalism with Brazilian tropicalism, create custom-made features, use strong splashes and contrasts of colour, maintain the interior architecture and use plants to represent a jungle in the entrance and upper sections of the restaurant.”

www.masquespacio.com