Italo-Japanese by Menu and Design: The Layers of Tiramisu in Montreal’s Chinatown
Here’s how Ménard Dworkind’s latest creation blends cultural features while adapting to a new world with dynamic designs.
Canadian firm Ménard Dworkind (MRDK), from architect David Dworkind and designer Guillaume Ménard, has bottled lightning more than once. Having earned multiple Grands Prix du Design awards for their conceptual approaches to restaurant and bar design, MRDK’s work is often transportive, taking visitors to bygone times or new worlds.
Their latest project does both. On the ground floor of the new Hampton Inn by Hilton in Montreal’s Chinatown, Tiramisu and its in-house Caffè Misu from the Lucky Belly restaurant group offer Italian cuisine with Japanese influences—lasagna bianca made with tonkotsu broth, arancini and sushi rice, and tiramisu combining coffee marshmallow and Japanese whisky—delivered in a way that MRDK sought to mirror in their own conception of the space.
“Our design follows the balance of the menu,” explains Ménard, who points to the lavish interiors of 1960s Italy as the inspiration for the dining room, which is accented with marble and terrazzo, chrome plating, and velvet seating. A touch of Japanese design is evident in the elevated bar area, which features an inverted pyramid of light boxes wrapped in acoustic felt to dampen sound. “These light boxes, built of black walnut, draw inspiration from the densely gridded window frames of Japanese tea houses.”
As for the new world inside Tiramisu, it’s the world restaurants have entered since March 2020. Hired when indoor dining was not permitted in Quebec due to the pandemic, MRDK was tasked with organizing the space as multifunctional and capable of pivoting to takeout if necessary.
“We placed both a café concept and the pizza counter at the entrance of the restaurant,” Ménard says, making coffee and pizza to go possible without walking through a large, empty dining room. “We wanted to spread out the restaurant’s service points—the bar, wine cellar, cashier, open kitchen—throughout the space. That way, clients always get some action going on close to them.”
By day, a 75-foot façade allows sunlight to pour in and reflect off surfaces including the restaurant’s mirrored walls. By night, those windows let in Chinatown’s neon lights and street lamps. While there’s dynamism at the heart of its design, Tiramisu still subtly maintains the stability of a sunrise and nightfall that can be appreciated in otherwise uncertain times.
989 Boul St–Laurent, Montreal H2Z 1J4