Patrick Jouin met us at two restaurants that he redesigned. The first, called Sombath, is a Thai restaurant whose cultural references he rendered so abstractly that it could pass for any type of expensive restaurant serving any kind of cuisine. Colors in scintillating gold, bold orange, and soft creams are supposed to call to mind temple treasures, women’s dresses and rice paddies. To the designer perhaps! But for me, entering into the restaurant was like entering into a kind of Starship Enterprise equipped with padded walls and gentle curves to protect the diners in the event of a sudden stop.
The restaurant seems to have been deliberately designed to force the diner to set aside any preconceived notions that he may have held about Thailand. It is an intellectual exercise that I would not want to be obliged to engage in when sitting down to enjoy a good Thai meal. Give me a Thai restaurant that looks like a Thai restaurant!