The past year and a half has seen an impressive new crop of high-design restaurants that demonstrate as much innovation and flair in their architecture and decor as they do in their cuisine. From a sushi mecca in Mexico City that’s wrapped in a laser-cut-steel pavilion to a Michelin-starred monochromatic tour de force at Paris’ Mandarin Oriental hotel to a healthful restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza whose rustic-mod interiors pay homage to a remote Chinese village, Architectural Digest selected a dozen notable newcomers. All of these spots are, in very distinctive ways, elevating the experience of dining out—in some cases, way out.
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Twenty Five Lusk, San Francisco
The Look: Located in a 1917 smokehouse in the city’s South of Market district, this expansive two-story spot was designed by local architect Cass Calder Smith. Retaining the original structure’s timber beams and exposed brick walls, Smith introduced contemporary elements such as oblong-shaped, stainless-steel “fire orbs” that are suspended from the 20-foot ceilings and sleek, cantilevered Macassar ebony tables.
The Food: Chef Matthew Dolan’s New American menus exploit Bay Area bounty in dishes like grilled Louisiana prawns with Japanese-pepper grits and yellowtail sashimi with salmon caviar and horseradish sorbet.
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Tori Tori, Mexico City
The Look: Gutting a house in the Mexican capital’s residential Polanco district, local firms Rojkind Arquitectos and Esrawe Studios transformed the three-story structure into a glowing, futuristic cube of contemporary design. A fishnet-like skin of precision-cut steel encases the restaurant’s glass walls, while the striking geometric interior features floating entry staircases and a tea lounge that’s lined in boldly grained wood and has a lush vertical garden at one end.
The Food: This new branch of Katsumi Kumoto Kawasaki’s beloved Japanese restaurant focuses on traditional sushi and sashimi cut from the freshest seafood and features an extensive sake menu.
Pauly Saal, Berlin
The Look: Inspired by the golden 1920s of Weimar Berlin, this double-height restaurant occupies the former gymnasium of a Jewish girls school, built in 1928 and recently transformed by gallerist Michael Fuchs into the House of Art and Dining Culture. Restaurateurs Stephan Landwehr and Boris Radczun—who are also behind the art-world hot spot Grill Royal—introduced custom-made ceramic tiles and beech chairs, Murano chandeliers, paintings by Daniel Richter, and—perched prominently above the glass-fronted kitchen—Cosima von Bonin’s rocket sculpture, Miss Riley.
The Food: Chef Siegfried Danler serves up hearty dishes like rich stews and rotisserie suckling pig, sourcing ingredients locally and making sausage, pickles, breads, and pastries in-house.
Brushstroke, New York
The Look: When David Bouley closed Secession and decided to make over the Tribeca space as a Japanese kaiseki restaurant, he hired the hip Japanese design firm Super Potato to mastermind the refit. Featuring natural stone, reclaimed timber, and salvaged steel, the restaurant finds its focal point in the bar area, where a wall fashioned from 25,000 irregularly stacked books, pages facing outward, gives the impression of richly textured wood parquet.
The Food: Brushstroke is a partnership between Bouley and the Tsuji Culinary Institute of Osaka, with chef Isao Yamada, a Tsuji alumnus, overseeing the eight- or 10-course seasonal menus. The offerings change monthly, but there are a few recurring items, such as the beloved steamed chawan-mushi—egg custard with black truffle sauce and king crab.
Bama LOHAS Café, Tokyo
The Look: For this intimate space in the middle of bustling Ginza, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma drew inspiration from the Chinese village of Bama, a place known for the longevity of its residents. Combining clean-lined traditional furnishings with natural accents such as light fixtures made with dried corn husks (used by locals in their native dress), Kuma created a contemporary interpretation of Bama’s rustic aesthetic.
The Food: The café’s cuisine also comes from Bama, where hemp is a common component of the healthful diet. The menu, featuring hemp tofu, hemp pickles, and a number of dishes dressed with hemp oil, meshes with the slow-living concept of LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) popularized by the Japanese magazine Sotokoto, whose publisher owns the restaurant.
Sur Mesure, Paris
The Look: Conceived by design partners Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku as an ode to haute couture, the white-on-white space at the Mandarin Oriental hotel plays with layers of draped fabric (installed by artist Heidi Winge Ström) to create an intimate culinary cocoon—and the perfect blank canvas for chef Thierry Marx’s avant-garde innovations.
The Food: Just seven months after opening, Marx received two Michelin stars. His multicourse tasting menus reflect French and Asian influences, with signature dishes like shellfish mousse and caviar crostini.