By Will Speros
Spanning the ground floor of the newly completed Bosa Pacific Gate condominium development, the ornate Pan-Asian eatery Animae frames vistas of San Diego’s Marina District via expansive glazing. The new restaurant is conceived as a counterpoint to the city’s beachtown vibe and its complementary dining options.
“We wanted to create a space that people could dress up for a proper night on the town,” explains Jason St John, cofounding partner of Los Angeles-based design firm Bells + Whistles. “For Animae, [owners Puffer Malarkey Collective] knew they wanted to do Pan-Asian cuisine in a high-end space. Some of the key words first used were sexy, Art Deco, Japanese, theatrical,high-end service.”
Indeed, opulence reigns across the decadent, 7,600-square-foot interior that reinterprets the lore of enchanted Japanese forests through an Art Deco lens. The jewel-toned Animae is features a materiality that shimmers in sunlight and dazzles after dark. “We knew we had to pull out all the stops on this project, so we went back to our roots as a design-build firm and custom build as much as the budget would allow,” says St John.
Reminiscent of Japan’s Yakushima Island, the dining room is adorned with an upscale color palette of emerald, gold, and salmon hues, while serpentine booths stretch across bespoke wool carpeting and meandering terrazzo flooring. Central columns contextualize the 20-foot-tall ceilings along with minaret-style chandeliers suspended above the restaurant’s eight-person green velvet booths, which match the lush drapery. Blue tiger’s eye stone detailing accents the bar, where luxe fluted gold leaf is a striking contrast to the post-apocalyptic mural of a robot battle behind it.
Amid Animae’s maximalist grandeur, a dream-like harmony ultimately instills a sense of comfort. “Imitating the essence of nature through the art of Japanese Zen gardens, Animae is dressed in Art Deco romanticism with a tinge of post-punk futurism,” says St John says. “One may easily liken entering the door to Animae to stepping through a portal into a dreamy, enchanted forest.”
Photography by Dustin Bailey