So the new Minibar is officially open in Penn Quarter, and José Andrés and his ThinkFoodGroup team are keeping what exactly goes on during the $225 per person dinner under wraps. But Allison Cooke, senior designer at local architecture firm CORE, shared a few tidbits with Eater about what it was like working with famed Spanish architect Juli Capella to create the 12-seat, multi-room restaurant. Here's what you should know about the design of the spectacle that is Minibar. And tune in tomorrow, when Curbed shares more details about the space, furnishings, and the design process.
1)) The dining journey begins with an amuse bouche and cocktail, then moves to the dining space, and after dinner, guests retire to a more comfortable lounge for something sweeter.
??2) Just as the menu at Minibar plays with the senses, the restaurant's furniture also isn't always what it seems. Key pieces from Italian designer Cerruti Baleri include a couch that looks like a prickly cactus and an armchair that appears to be made out of marble but is actually silkscreened upholstery. ??
3) Cooke thinks that the cactus couch is what guests will remember the most about the decor. "People are going to love it passionately — or not," she said.
??4) The space is very neutral, to allow the unique furniture —and the food — to shine. "It's almost like a gallery space where the food takes center stage," said Cooke.??
5) Since Minibar is meant to be the epicenter of research and development for ThinkFoodGroup, the dining space incorporates blackboard walls for chefs to scribble recipe ideas and descriptions.
??6) Capella designed the space with flexibility in mind. For example, the center counter where chefs plate in front of guests can be pulled apart and moved to the side if necessary.
??7) The new Minibar is now in the space that used to house Zola Wine & Kitchen, which features a back of the house kitchen that was used for prep work and an open kitchen for cooking classes. Fortuitously, ThinkFoodGroup was able to use the same setup and build the Minibar counter around the open kitchen space, which helped the budget go further.
??8) José Andrés' good friend, Spanish architect Juli Capella, served as the visionary for the project, with CORE providing assistance getting local vendors and contractor Forrester on board as quickly as possible. CORE started the design process with ThinkFoodGroup in July, though Andrés and Capella had met prior to that. And CORE and Capella's team had to race to finish the design before Capella's team took the month of August for vacation. "We could work with them to the point where we were all happy with the design and it gave us a month to sit down and document it so someone could build it," Cooke said. The construction was finished in just eight weeks. ??
9) Juli Capella's vision for the dining room involved golden domes that envelop diners in a sense of luxury. To create the domes, CORE reached out to Bandy Boats, a local boat building company in Maryland. They cut two identical domes out of a sailboat's hull and then finished the domes with gold leaf on the inside. Track lighting illuminates the domes for a bit of sparkle. ??
10) About those famed Minibar stools — the team worked really hard to make sure that the stools are as comfortable as possible, to minimize distractions from the lengthy meal.
— Adele Chapin