If you’re in Berlin and happen to visit JIGI Poke for a quick bite, you’d be excused for thinking that you’ve accidentally stepped into a contemporary sculpture gallery or transcendental meeting space – all the more made apparent by the suspended boulder slowly spinning in the window. Designed by Berlin-based design studio VAUST, the new Poke eatery re-evaluates the parameters of dining out vis-à-vis the pandemic, both in terms of concept and aesthetics, offering patrons a meaningful as much as a tasteful experience. Devoid of all unnecessary elements, hospitality tropes and Hawaiian clichés, the minimalist-designed, intimate space is imbued with a contemplative sensibility and sculptural rigor that is both surprising at first and profoundly soothing once you take your seat and delve into your sumptuous freshly-made poke bowl.
The design team drew inspiration from an old photograph of a Hawaiian fisherman sitting bare-chested on a rock as he prepares his fishing net for a day at sea. Taken in 1907, a large reproduction hanging by the entrance means it’s the first thing patrons see when they step inside, with the portrait’s starkness, intimacy and serenity setting the tone for the restaurant’s interior design.
Two monolithic concrete communal tables dominate the dining area with cut granite stones from Norway and wooden stumps serving as stools. Complemented by polished cement flooring, exposed concrete ceilings and plastered walls in earthy hues, the bespoke furnishings constitute an abstract sculptural composition that defies expectations. Sheer curtains gently curving around the dining area, in conjunction with abundant natural light streaming in from the glazed façade, further enhance the interior design’s meditative sensibility, as does the spinning boulder that is prominently suspended by the street front which is part of the restaurant's branding identity.
Two minimal stainless-steel counters, one for placing your order, the other part of the preparation area, stand out among the raw, rough textures of the concrete, stone and wood furnishings, including the hand-sculpted concrete elements embracing them. Combined with the sparsely placed stools, which are fixed to the floor to ensure that proper distances are kept, the restaurant’s configuration ensures safety throughout the dining experience. The peace of mind that such thoughtful considerations convey perfectly fits in with VAUST’s graceful and calming interiors – you couldn’t really ask for more during a pandemic.