128 South 19th Street
Designer: Crème Design
With its forest of maple slats beneath a starlit canopy, the new Philadelphia restaurant Zama offers a welcome twist on sushi minimalism. Lamps recessed behind hundreds of wooden slats make the walls seem to glow from within, while the illuminated ceiling arcing over the dining-room creates a sense of embracing intimacy. “It is difficult to find the balance between clean design and something that is warm, but that is what we strived to achieve,” said Jun Aizaki, principal designer at Brooklyn-based design firm Crème. The series of rectangular spaces is integrated through the maple millwork, which also sculpts each individual dining zone. A handmade rice-paper fish lantern over the sushi bar and a counter made of a two-piece walnut slab soften the geometric lines, as do the lively koi-patterned roof, inspired by Japanese rock gardens, and the slightly varying floor heights. Just a few steps from Rittenhouse Square, the 80-seat eatery is the first restaurant for revered sushi chef Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka, who mixes traditional Japanese cuisine with modern ingredients––an approach reflected in this serenely playful interior.