Taiwan Bento

Intentions: During the build out, and just one month before Taiwan Bento’s scheduled soft opening, the owners of a new Uptown Oakland restaurant received this comment from their loan officer: “You’re restaurant’s ugly.”

Talk about an “ouch/yikes” moment! That’s when 3 Lights Design got the call.

Taiwan Bento was the brainchild of Taiwanese born Stacy Tang, and her husband, Chinese American, Willy Wang. The layout of the restaurant was long and narrow, with a clerestory above the entrance, and stairs along the east wall leading up to an upper level dining area. Donatella, Luis, and Austin quickly got to work, looking for ways to quickly and efficiently turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.

Functional Results: The first thing we recognized was missing was a driving theme. Though a theme may seem more on the aesthetic side, without one, a project can become quickly disjointed.

Located in a hip and happening part of Oakland, both Stacy and Willy desired to bring the rich culinary heritage of Taiwanese cooking in a healthy, home felt, and reasonably priced way. And focused on the equipment and the operation, must of the aesthetics were a last minute decision. During some intense, highly charged brainstorming, the 3 Lights Design team came up with a driving theme: “Where the Far East Meets the East Bay.”

Aesthetic Results:  Balancing time and cost considerations, the 3 Lights Design team got to work. The stairs and the second story required a railing. But the black metal railing chosen by the contractor, however, was heavy and overwhelmed the space. With the clock ticking, there wasn’t enough time (or money) to replace it. The 3 Lights Team came up with a low cost solution by capping the railing with a natural wood top and wrapping the railing in back rope. To blend the two cultures, we suggested creating a large, tri glyph graffiti style portrait of Taiwanese culture along the front part of the restaurant and 3, black and white calligraphy-style painting of Oakland Landmarks, such as the Fox Theater and the Port of Oakland. In the clerestory, we suggested making origami birds, handing them from the ceiling, and making them look like they were flying amidst a sky of Chinese globes. Red paint, symbol of good luck, was used sparingly to create aliveness and intrigue along different walls. To this day the beautiful swan has turned out to be an gigantic origami crane, perched above the rafters leading to the back of the restaurant.

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