August 31, 2015 12:00 PM

The Tao Downtown is a luxurious restaurant located at 92 Ninth Avenue on West 16th Street, New York. The Rockwell Group, an international architectural practice, designed the restaurant in late 2013 as the second Tao in NYC. The LAB is a part of the larger Rockwell Group family, which has been working for more than 25 years on the architectural and interior design of projects ranging from museums, to exhibits, restaurants, hotels, and theaters. The seamless synergy of technology, craftsmanship, and design is reflected off environments that combine high-end video technology, handmade objects, special effects, custom fixtures, and furniture. The ambition of the LAB is to explore, experiment, and demonstrate interactive experience augmented with digital technology in objects, environments, and stories. They were inspired by Asian heritage and culture to create a design that was based on a Gotham speakeasy with an Asian sensibility. They used materials that combine raw and industrial components with rich and lush vintage Asian details in the space. Moreover, they developed several animations for Quan Yin, a 20’ statue in the main dining room. The LAB utilized 3D projection mapping software to wrap the animations around the sculptural form, allowing Quan Yin to seamlessly transform before guests.

The designers at the Rockwell Group said "We've spent over ten years perfecting what TAO represents…This isn't just a 'second location' of TAO in NYC; it is the next iteration of our brand. Devoted fans will still feel at home. There are many elements that distinguish the restaurant from its sister locations. This is what guests can expect from us moving forward."

The menu, designed by Chef/Partner Ralph Scamardella and his culinary team, Chef Scamardella said "We've studied in kitchens abroad and brought in talent from overseas with the number one goal of delivering authentic, flavorful dishes that celebrate old-school techniques and cooking as diverse as are the regions of Asia."

In addition TAO Downtown is a two-story, 22,000 square foot restaurant and bar lounge in Chelsea. Occupying the former Matsuri and Hiro Ballroom spaces in the Maritime Hotel. The restaurant, bar, and lounge are located on the mezzanine level of the hotel, A large main dining area is on the cellar level and a separate lounge spans both the mezzanine and cellar levels.

In the mezzanine level there is the Ink Bar visitors are met by a host stationed in front of a dragon scale patterned screen, which serves as a leitmotif throughout the space. There is a long corridor layered with Chinese calligraphy murals mounted on weathered brick walls and overlaid with portals comprised of reclaimed wood horizontal planks creates the feeling of being in a grotto.The corridor leads guests to the top of a grand staircasewhere they encounter a 16’ long reclining stone Buddha, located behind lounge seating. 

The elongated Ink Bar is divided into three sections. The center of the bar is made from a highly-textured pineapple finish stone. Smaller bars with a lacquer finish surface are located on either side of the bar, creating a contrast between old and new, furthermore the back wall of the bar features a 16’ long by 6’ high site-specific mural by the renowned graffiti artist Hush, painted directly onto the exposed brick wall. A series of 6’ tall angled, hammered wire glass panels are positioned in front of the back wall to pixelate the mural, also, there are an exclusive private parlor area in the Ink Bar features a custom chandelier with metallic ball-chain tassels resembling a “far-away tree,” a tufted green leather sofa, and a custom wall panel in stingray shagreen, also there are two skyboxes overlooking main dining area that serve as private dining rooms in the Ink Bar. The designers took inspiration from the Chinese opera house boxes and the skyboxes feature a wall covering with a peacock graphic and plush red velvet drapes tied back in each corner.

In the Cellar level there is the grand staircase that leads guests down to the spacious main dining room. Custom furniture pieces designed for the grand stairs, including round banquettes that line the edge of stairs, provide flexible seating arrangements.

As guests descend the stair, Quanyin, a 20’ tall Buddha that stands atop a koi pond, comes into view across the room. A floor-to-ceiling dragon scale screen with a circular cutout in the center accentuates Quanyin’s multiple hands. In addition, there are subtle animations projected onto the statue, such as a waterfall at the Quanyin’sfeet. These were designed by Rockwell Group’s LAB with 3D projection mapping technology. There are two private dining rooms that each seat 12-16 guests and are located on either side of Quanyin. The rooms are illuminated by custom chandeliers with metal beaded tassels and enclosed by colorful sheer drapery. 

The main dining room is covered in a speckled granite floor. Custom bent wire and fabric chandeliers in the form of Chinese lanterns are suspended from ceiling, which is comprised of black panels with carved, large-scale gold-hued Chinese calligraphy that are partially concealed behind wooden slats. Life-sized metal dragonflies are randomly placed on the chandeliers. The dining tables are custom made from reclaimed teak and feature antique metal stud detailing on the edges. They are surrounded by leather-and-metal-studded banquettes. Blackened bronze, laser-cut screens with leaf-shaped gradated perforations that are more concentrated in the center are positioned in front of a gold wall covering. The overall effect is dining and being inside a glowing lantern box. I-beams alongside the screens contain cantilevered posts for holding custom bent wire lanterns and are embellished by large burgundy silk tassels. The DJ booth is located between the main dining room and a unisex restroom.

Finally is the Lotus Bar, a curved structure in the shape of an abstracted lotus flower, anchors the cellar level. The bar is comprised of backlit, petal-shaped metal panels with an antique silver travertine finish. Be sure to check out the new TAO downtown!


To check out more please visit Tao Downtown







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