Located in the heart of the innovative Porta Nuova district in Milan, the new IYO Aalto restaurant has been designed by Maurizio Lai Architects to convey an original, unconventional interpretation of Japan.
Subtle references to Japanese tradition give way to a contemporary and pure design language, conceiving a place where essential materials and light merge into a different narrative.
The space of 320 square meters embraces the spacious open kitchen, the wine cellar, the exclusive “Sushi Banco” (an intimate room dedicated to Edomae zushi tradition) and the “Gourmet Restaurant: natural materials – walnut, porphyry, brass, leather – are combined with sophisticated and more technological elements.
The entrance introduces a timeless and dreamlike dimension: a compass with float glass plates and smoked mirrors expands the space, in a game of transparency and infinite reflections; on the inside, guests are welcomed by a light installation and a desk, made of flamed gray-green porphyry and brass, which introduces a dialogue between form and material that will continue throughout the restaurant.
IYO Aalto is defined by the discreet and constant presence of signs that distinguish all surfaces: small brass inlays drowned in the wooden slats of the floors; swallow-tails – also in brass – that recall the culture of high carpentry, up to the furniture screws.
The walls, never continuous, define and delimit spaces without ever completely isolating them: like the imposing central partition in slabs of split porphyry, flanked by brushed surfaces and void parts; furniture and fittings, entirely custom-made, are produced in collaboration with Poliform Contract.
The Sushi Banco proposes for 8 guests the Japanese edomae zushi: an ancient set of rituals where the nigiri are prepared in front of the guest: the entrance wall is made with Brise Soleil in Canaletto walnut and allows a glimpse of both the internal environment and the lofty window; the counter is in Canaletto walnut, with worktop and plates in smooth gray-green porphyry, characterized by thin brass inlays; the leather seats, with a black elm structure and a leather-coloured custom-made cladding, also used for the upholstered furniture in the main dining, are produced by Poliform Contract.
Between the Sushi Banco and the Gourmet Restaurant, a modular glass shelving holding ancient Sake barrels contributes handsomely to the permeability of the spaces.
The Gourmet Restaurant consists of a room designed to accommodate a maximum of 38 seats, where the Canaletto walnut covers all the surfaces of the space, and the ceiling is embellished with lacunar sheets of float glass: a touch of lightness to rediscover the classic codes of coffered ceilings reinterpreted according to a contemporary aesthetic.
The lighting of the tables is entrusted to spotlights that return the light where it is needed without altering the overall lighting of the room, while three wooden wall cabinets mark the space; custom-designed, they represent some of the recurring details of the project: brass screws, wood, leather, glass.
The wooden tables have brass swallow-tail inlays and, in the center, a gray-green porphyry swivel plate; on the walls, there are movable sliding walls in Canaletto walnut, which act as Brise Soleil and allow external light to be filtered according to the time and needs.
In addition, the wall-mounted wine cellar is one of the largest ever made: 3.5 m x 10 m, with six different temperature zones, to accommodate up to 1600 bottles; consisting of a polished stainless core, it has reflective smoked glass doors (also used for ceiling cladding) and interior lighting.
The kitchen, at the forefront of technology and the beating heart of the restaurant, was conceived with the same principles of excellence of the rooms; enclosed in a glass case, it is designed in every detail, with an important custom module that dominates the spaces, while the transparency of the rooms makes them permeable to the eye not only from the inside but also from Piazza Alvar Aalto, consolidating the relationship between the restaurant and the city; all doors are automatic, with photocell opening to allow chefs and staff to move freely in complete safety.
Finally, in the restrooms, luminous vertical and horizontal lines play with dark vertical surfaces, mirrored at full height, alternating with sheets of back-lacquered glass and round mirrors with LED backlights; polished floors and ceilings made with recycled glass grit slabs get reflected, thus multiplying the space, causing an unexpected effect and adding a level of experience to the project.
The result is a celebration of Japanese culture that enhances contemporary and essential style, combining the elegance of design with the pleasure of food.