This is the second of three restaurants featured in the design series, A Visual Feast
109 Clarence St.
At the Tomo opening party this past May, designer Kayla Pongrac spray-painted the restaurant’s logo on an exposed brick wall freehand, using bright red paint. It was a gutsy move that could have made a horrible mess in front of a big crowd. But she pulled it off, and it now adds a graffiti vibe to this very happening space.
Pongrac has brought together many Japanese design motifs and layered them with an urban Western edge. From sake barrels imported from Japan mounted on one wall to a giant photo-and-origami collage of geisha girls along another, there is no mistaking that this is an Asian restaurant. But the decor is rooted in Canada too. For example, natural wood accents on the large sharing tables act as a contemporary update on the harvest table or school refectory. The generous edge of the concrete bar top, chairs, and stools are made from luscious grained maple, sourced from Toronto.
“We wanted it to be a place where groups feel welcome,” says co-owner Nara Sok. “We also wanted to encourage communal eating and sharing. Our menu is made for sharing.” Quite fitting for Tomo, which, after all, means “long-time friend” in Japanese.
Down one long side, Pongrac has used nearly 700 feet of marine-grade rope, imported from the United States, to create an airy, cocoon-like feeling over the booths. The heavy pieces of rope are mounted on maple bars suspended from the ceiling. Along the exposed stone wall, 99 tea lights twinkle at night.
Elsewhere, empty sake bottles have been turned into light fixtures, while 45 Edison bulbs hang over the bar from an abstract maple trellis overhead. “I wanted to use many traditional Japanese design references,” she explains. In their goal for an ambience that brings together the Eastern izakaya and the Western pub, Pongrac and Sok have created an upscale, unique addition to the city’s dining scene.