The focal point of Ushabu in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood is its beautifully crafted traditional Japanese shabu-shabu fare. This is a Japanese version of fondue, featuring hotspots at tables where guests prepare their own fresh meat, seafood and vegetables in a special broth. The vibrant vegetables for fondue and artistically presented small plates create a captivating experience for the senses. Ushabu enlisted in Richardson Design to create a casual dining space inside a 700 square-foot space that was previously retail. It needed complete interior design from kitchen to bar to front of house.

A Natural Fit
Because the unique menu is ultimately the focal point of the Ushabu experience, the interior needed to be natural yet crisp, supporting the overall aesthetic of shabu-shabu. The existing space was gutted, leaving some exposed natural brick that was preserved in the design as a backdrop for the intimate bar. Wood accents are Zen-inspired and natural, and the minimalist design and neutral color palette allow the artistic, colorful food presentation to be the visual focus for guests. Tables include individual built-in induction burners for an interactive dining experience. The small, sleek space was enclosed with dark and light woods—a casually sleek effect, overall, that includes complementary furniture. The custom benches and chairs include joinery inspired by Japanese design.

Making Room
The compact area needed to be smartly divided into distinct kitchen, dining and bar spaces—there was not a lot of room to work with. To address this, Richardson created a wood portal to envelope the back dining area, creating a visual partition between this and the front of house seating and bar. To create privacy between booth seating, sleek wood plank partitions imitate Japanese private screens and maintain a sense of openness. Booths are set up on a single-step riser. Seating in six-top and four-top arrangements is closely positioned and set up in a pod manner to provide individual tables, or an option for communal dining. A bar flanks the wall, giving guests an option to dine there or simply stop in to enjoy Ushabu’s eclectic mix of beers, wines and sakis.

A Traditional Concept & Modern Experience
Ushabu serves Japanese fondue with artisan attention to detail, in keeping with the tradition. Meanwhile, the casual dining space offers a fresh, modern experience that is both welcoming and naturally refined from the time a guest approaches the renovated storefront.

Photography: John Spaulding Photography www.johnspauldingphotography.com

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