Last fall, José Miguel Herrera and Nuria Morell closed their popular SushiHome restaurant in Valencia, Spain. Fans and patrons were surprised, but they did not have to wait long for the answer. In December, the couple opened Nozomi Sushi Bar in the funky Ruzafa neighbourhood of the city. For interior design and branding of their new venture, they employed Valencia-based creative consultancy Masquespacio established in 2010 by Ana Milena Hernández Palacios and Christophe Penasse.

The founders selected the name Nozomi, popular for restaurants and businesses, including the Japanese bullet train. It is a lovely word with dual connotations. The word itself means wish or hope in Japanese and with the bullet-train implications, it also signifies efficiency and modern lifestyle. The whole project was then envisioned around two concepts, ‘emotional classic’ and ‘rational contemporary.’

In the 233 square-metre (2508 sq.ft) space, Hernández Palacios, creative director for this project, managed to evoke the feel of a Japanese street. “We have been studying photography from the most authentic Japanese streets with the aim to create a reinterpretation on a metaphoric way of those streets,” she says. Nozomi Sushi reminds many people of a typical street in Kyoto where traditional Japanese houses are well preserved. The best feature of the restaurant is the overall quiet balance. It does not appear to be trying too hard like so many concepts today. Instead, it feels natural and coherent with its light-weight wood slats, shelves and partitions contrasted with the strong and solid concrete features.

Inside, the chefs ply the ancient trade of sushi – the original fast food – behind a neutral bar with a fantastic origami-inspired cherry-tree-blossom ceiling above them. (Via The Coolhunter and Tuija Seipell – Photography by David Rodríguez and Carlos Huecas)

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Mention caviar and champagne, and most of us will think of opulent, lavish environments, luxury bling and furs, high heels, tuxedoes. But not so in Helsinki. Finland-born, Los Angeles-educated and now Helsinki-based designer Jonna Laajisto took the Finnish approach: She focused on creating an understated setting and fitted it to respond to the historical harbour environment. And left out everything else.

Laajisto was commissioned by the Finnish fish and seafood purveyor Savu-Kari to create a caviar (and roe and oyster) shop and restaurant in one of the most enviable locations in Helsinki, Eteläranta 20, overlooking the main harbour where the commuter ferries and sight-seeing boats dock and depart for the archipelago, and right across from the city’s famed open-air public market (Kauppatori) and the recently renovated and re-opened Old Market Hall (Kauppahalli).

She adorned the tiny 45 square-metre (485 sq.ft) space with only the essentials: a few tables, chairs, counter, shelves – all Finnish origin. We love the tiled floors, aged clip boards for menus, minimalist lighting and unpretentious chairs, as it all harkens back to the Old Market Hall feel yet with a lovely modern urban seaside café essence.

The only real touch of color comes from the blue Rocket stools designed by Eero Aarnio and available at Artek. Finlandia Caviar has only 11 seats plus four more outside (when the snow thaws) and it is also available for private events, such roe-tastings and parties. Various types of caviar and roe are served straight from the tin, nestled in ice, accompanied by crackers and truffle cream. And of course champagne or vodka.

Jonna Laajisto is also responsible for the design of Minna Parikka Universum, the Helsinki (and only) retail boutique of our favourite Finnish ladies’ shoe brand. It is also an understated, minimalist white shell that offers up Minna’s fun, limited-edition shoes like pearls inside an oyster. (via The CoolHunter and Tuija Seipell)

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