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Statement Makers: Akira Back

Matthew Hall • Photography by Tony Trichanh and Maxime Bocken • August 21, 2018

Photos: Akira Back

Drawing from his eclectic, adventurous background as a pro snowboarder-turned-Michelin-starred chef, Akira Back, who was born in Seoul but grew up in Aspen, wanted his first Canadian restaurant, located in Toronto’s new 96-room Bisha Hotel, to take diners on a mind-expanding expedition both of the palate and their other senses.

To achieve that, Toronto nightlife and restaurant impresario and Bisha owner Charles Khabouth turned to Alessandro Munge, a longtime collaborator and designer of the ultra-luxe hotel, to convey Akira Back’s glamorous journey, which begins at the ornate stairway imbued with a gold leaf wall finish and sculptural cove lighting.

Munge created a multilayered light-dark-light experience within the 147-seat space “that invites guests to enjoy [the restaurant] in a different way each time,” he says. Patrons are first treated to textured black carbon tones executed in a variety of tactile finishes, including leathered belvedere marble tables and reptilian upholstered barstools. Subtle nods to Japanese culture in the main dining space come in the form of torched wood walls inspired by shou sugi ban, a centuries-old wood-finishing technique. At the other side of the space is a destination sushi bar that draws the eye with its floor-to-ceiling gold-finished brass volumes.

The standout, however, is the billowing, ceiling cove in the main dining room, bearing overlapping handpainted indigo petals with gold accents, as well as a suspended, undulating mobile installation that dons a watercolor by Back’s mother. “That piece,” Munge notes, “makes this space more than just another restaurant to him—it’s a place he can call home.”