In the crafting of an authentic Vietnamese-Chinese dining experience, this restaurant and lounge in the Intercontinental Asiana Hotel Saigon makes design references to archetypal elements of Vietnamese urban spaces such as its narrow street alleys, Dao temples and Chinese eateries. Stylized re-creations of these spaces are integrated into the design as part of the journey through the restaurant and bar/lounge by using their spatial, lighting and material characteristics as well as traditional Vietnamese architectural elements such as locally sourced screens, furniture and artefacts that would be standard items found in those contexts. The memory of these uniquely Vietnamese urban spaces is evoked using a modern interpretation of a neo-Vietnamese/French Art Deco style and elements that are manufactured and finished using traditional methods, in celebration of the fast-growing design culture in this emerging nation. There are four main spaces in the restaurant which, when experienced sequentially, recreate a nostalgic journey through the charms of old Saigon and its gastronomically rich culture. These spaces are the Entrance Foyer, the Alley Dining, the Main Dining Hall and the Private Dining Rooms.
The entrance foyer evokes the atmosphere of the back alley of a street with an intimate Dao temple square. A traditionally woven Vietnamese-Chinese silk screen panel featuring the Chinese peony partially veils the dining areas. Beyond these dining spaces lies an alleyway that recalls a traditional food street. This Alley Dining is set against the backdrop of a long stone wall where each stone is hand-carved in the shape of Vietnamese cake moulds. Clay brick floors paving the entrance foyer and the public walkway of the alley add to the sense of being in the back streets of old Saigon.
At the end of the Alley Dining, the restaurant space opens up to the Main Dining Hall inspired by the French influence that differentiates Vietnamese culture from others in Asia, while the Private Dining rooms make reference to the French fascination with orientalism. These have a polished sheen compared to the rusticity of the alleyway. The public walkway flooring changes from brick to limestone. Ubiquitous ceiling and window-side standing lattice screens harmonise with the lamps and chairs. French and Vietnamese-Chinese aesthetics are interwoven and expressed through furnishing and lacquer ware produced with traditional furniture manufacturing methods such as the French provincial chairs finished in Vietnamese lacquer that straddle the different cultural influences that make up today’s Vietnam. Art Deco-inspired Chinese consoles and chairs with an antique European finish are stripped of elaborate carvings to capture the essence of these traditional elements in a contemporary manner.
Returning from the Dining Hall, pivot doors open out from the Chinese Restaurant’s entrance foyer to encourage guests to spill into the Purple Jade lounge bar for post-dinner drinks. Deep fuchsia red velvet inspired by Poppies and other opiates cover the wall panelling along with smoky black mirrors and metal panels that together evoke an exotic den atmosphere. Exquisitely embroidered Chinese lamps and hostesses dressed to induce nostalgia, slow the perceived passage of time. A central stage is raised above the bar with a black mirror ceiling that enables guests to maintain visual contact with the smooth-sounding solitary jazz singer. Similar screens to those in the restaurant are featured here in a glossy black lacquer that enclose intimate dens with opium beds where couples and small groups can enjoy the entertainment in privacy.