“I didn’t dream in a million years that I’d have a restaurant that looks like this,” says chef Nathan Green, the culinary brains behind much-anticipated new restaurant, Rhoda. There’s plenty to be excited about: the project is his very first restaurant, launched in partnership with Yenn Wong’s JIA Group, and it’s designed by the sought-after Joyce Wang – whose studio is responsible for striking interiors of AMMO, Mott 32, and the newly renovated rooms of the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Rhoda also marks the first collaboration between the Joyce and JIA Group.
Nathan’s mandate is to resurrect “proper cooking” by utilising charcoal and wood, going back to homemade ingredients, and making sure nothing is wasted (which is why the menu changes daily). However, food isn’t the only thing that’s sumptuous here – we dissect the design details that make Rhoda Joyce Wang’s most experimental interior project to date.
In the Neighbourhood
“We like finding areas that are accessible but not obvious, as well as spaces that are interesting and unexpected,” shares Yenn. JIA Group chose the relatively unexplored Sai Wan district to be Rhoda’s home. The restaurant’s raw metal façade stands out while blending into the largely local dining options in the vicinity. Go through the side entrance past the gleaming copper signage or slip through the oversized industrial doors that open up to the street. Guests are greeted by a spacious bar fronted by a verdigris-laden panel – a prime spot to savour a glass of wine (starting from $50) while watching the trams roll by.
Patina Over Polish
“A restaurant ages and everything ages with it; I wanted something that reflected this,” Nathan says. That is why for a new restaurant, Rhoda already feels lived in. Joyce adds: “We chose fabrics that looked slightly distressed, picked leather made for aging, and crafted the tables from charred cedar wood and etched a Tudor rose motif on it (Nathan named the restaurant after his grandmother, whose name translates to ‘rose’).” Moreover, the communal table – which emphasises the approachable dining experience the restaurant aims to proffer – was especially created by fabricator in Iceland who melts copper into the crevices of the wood.
Upcycled pieces are quite unusual for Joyce Wang, whose custom-design projects are often described as opulent and polished. “Repurposing is part of how Nate sees food,” says Joyce, referring to how Nathan prefers to use all parts of an animal in his cooking, leaving no waste behind, “and I wanted to showcase that in the interior.” The pièce de résistance is the alternative yet elegant chandelier made out of reclaimed washing machine drums. Even the ropes hanging above the dining niches are recycled. “They’re made out of 10 different kinds of old rope bundled together. The idea is to find beauty in what isn’t normally considered to be beautiful,” stresses Joyce.
The charcoal grill is the heart of Rhoda, perfectly placed on the open, arena-like kitchen. “I like how I can see everyone coming in and how every guest has a vantage point to the kitchen,” shares Nathan. Elements of the grill are subtly referenced in the design, especially with the use of Shou Sugi Ban – a stained oak cladding that covers the walls and columns. Copper details and hot rods are also peppered throughout the space, bringing to mind amber-coloured coal.
Into the Mancave
Dive into Nate’s Room – an intimate den just off to the side of the main bar. This space celebrates Nathan’s idiosyncrasies – from the “hairy” cement walls (achieved by pushing concrete through chicken wire, something Joyce saw at a construction site) and barber brushes that tie in to Nathan’s signature beard to a hanging lightbox featuring vintage tattoo flash art, showcasing his passion for body art.
Rhoda, G/F The Upton, 345 Des Voeux Rd West, Sai Wan. Make a reservation by calling 2177 5050.