- Mean Noodles by OPENUU, design and great food
We often showcase the interiors of restaurants and bars, places that focus on all the different facets of good taste, covering the interior design as well as the food served there. Rarely, though, do we see eateries that have been designed by professionals in both the world of architecture and food. Mean Noodles, a Hong Kong restaurant specialising in Malaysian hawker dishes is one of those rare cases.
The designers Caroline Chou and Kevin Lim from the studio, OPENUU love the bold, intense flavours of southeast Asian food. Kevin lived in Malaysia for some time and he and Caroline both love travelling around southeast Asia in search of local dining experiences. What’s more, Kevin Lim is both a trained architect and a professionally certified chef from Le Cordon Bleu in Boston and he worked closely with chef Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA. As luck would have it, Blue Ginger - where Kevin discovered his love of exotic ingredients - was also one of Charlotte's favourite haunts in Boston, where she attended Wellesley College, a 10-minute walk from the restaurant.
This is the interesting backstory of Mean Noodles, located in Sheung Wan in Hong Kong, an old, exotic and hip neighbourhood with a down-to-earth vibe that provides an eclectic mix of experiences dominated by traditional Chinese beliefs and businesses.
Mean Noodles - a play on words where “mean” sounds like the word noodles in Chinese, and can also describe something awesome, as in to enjoy a “mean bowl of noodles” - is hidden in plain sight along an alleyway. To make it easier to find, without resorting to a large, street-front window, the entrance is marked by green stainless steel window frames and the noodle shop’s artful logo. The vintage metal aesthetic combined with concrete finishes means it inconspicuously fits into the neighbourhood, not actually a given these days.
Being both the design team and the chef-owners of the restaurant, Chou and Lim wanted to create a consistent concept across everything - logo, brand, recipes (their signature dishes include Penang Hokkien Mee, Nyonya Laksa, Vietnamese Pho, Char Kuay Teow and Thai Yen Ta Fo Heng), through to interiors and facade. They got their idea for the interior design from Malaysian batik, the art of painting textiles with light, vibrant colours, geometrical designs and plant and flower motifs.
The open kitchen fosters interaction between customers and the chef, and diners can watch their dishes being prepared. The cabinets poised above the bar are decorated with a custom “MEAN” lighting design - the only concession to the “industrial” design we’re seeing everywhere right now. Caroline Chou and Kevin Lim of OPENUU also focused on the comfort of their customers, even though the noodle shop is small, taking advantage of the high ceilings of the original structure to craft a comforting, airy ambience. They have also provided USB outlets for customers to charge their electronics while dining, and hooks under the marble table-tops to hang bags and purposes so they can sit comfortably as they tuck into their mean bowl of noodles!
Mean Noodles by OPENUU is a great example of global design that stands out for its balance, where the skilful blend of quality ingredients creates fresh, never gooey dishes and surroundings.
Project: OPENUU - http://openuu.com/
Location: Hong Kong
Images: Nirut Benjabanpot