SUBA Restaurant

At Suba, a restaurant opened in January 2002, diners are transported from the gritty environs of Manhattan’s Lower East Side to an architectural fantasy inspired by the romance of Spain’s Alhambra Palace and Fellini’s Rome. Designed by Andre Kikoski, Suba is an innovative and elegant dining environment that captures the imagination with its illuminated and sensual dining grotto. The 4,000 SF restaurant is organized around three rooms, each on its own level. Moving between a ground-level tapas lounge, the shimmering grotto, and an expansive skylight dining room, one encounters a series of luxurious surprises. The ground-level tapas lounge, set in the shell of a 1909 building, features a contemporary bar of exotic walnut wood and industrial metal. Patrons descend a staircase of stainless steel bar grating—suspended over an 18-foot-long illuminated reflecting pool — to the softly illuminated brick-vaults of the reception hall. Guests may enter either through the magical dining grotto or pass through an elegant stair hall to a 14-foot high dining gallery. The dinning grotto features a polished concrete dining island set in a pool of 7,000 gallons of ozone-filtered water. Essentially, a swimming pool turned inside out, water surrounds the dining island. Fifty underwater lights are concealed from view by an eight-inch cantilever shelf. Hidden jets create a soft current in the pool, throwing shimmering ripples of light across the room’s exposed brick walls, vaulted ceiling, and iridescent textiles to create a truly unique dining environment. The subtle effect of rippling, shimmering light cannot be captured on time-lapse photography. The skylight lounge — located a half-story below the grotto, and two levels below the street — is accessed by descending poured concrete steps. This unexpectedly expansive, color-filled room opens to the sky above. The room is complete with its own walnut and metal bar and DJ balcony — all in what was once the rear yard of the building. The room is bathed in rich colors inspired by the paintings of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This sophisticated atmosphere is the result of architectural ingenuity and invention. The architect’s intent — to create a subterranean playground — could only be achieved by extensive excavation and structural reinforcing throughout. Over eight feet of earth was removed from the grotto, and ten reinforcing beams are used throughout to open wide span spaces, and are carefully matched to the existing structure to appear as if they were always there. In the grotto, this strategy proved particularly useful and permitted the profile of the new beams to conceal dramatic pinpoint spotlights and required sprinkler heads. The architect’s elemental approach to working with the building’s existing material palette creates a seamless blend of new and old architecture. It is impossible to tell where the old space ended and the new construction began. There are no flashy or extravagant materials, just a simple palette of brick, mortar, and concrete embellished with contemporary flourishes such as tinted concrete floors polished with automotive wax and elegant plaster work in the luxurious private bathroom stalls. The plasterwork, done by a Parisian craftsman who recently completed Kevin Costner’s house and the Giorgio Armani Stores in Beverly Hills, is created by applying a base coat of dark chocolate vertically troweled and finished with a light terra cotta color from Rioja. In this room, slate-colored synthetic concrete surfaces (like high-school chemistry tables) and beautiful walnut doors, gently bowed on both faces, infuse the raw beauty of the original palette with contemporary sensuality.

Description from the architects


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