Chef Akira Back’s Secret Ingredient? His Mom

Her sinewy ceiling installation presides over Studio Munge's polar design that uses luxurious materials to play with dark & light

Just how far would you go to show your love for your mother? In the case of chef Akira Back, displaying her artwork on a custom sculptural mobile in his namesake restaurant in Toronto was a good start.

The newest member of the global franchise includes a six-seat sushi bar and looks out over the city’s Entertainment District from its second-floor perch of the Bisha Hotel. The project is the second collaboration with locally based Studio Munge—the first being Kumi at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas—who took inspiration from Back’s signature cuisine, which fuses Korean and Japanese flavors.


“We imagined the guest journey as a re-exploration of tradition, as a portal leading to modernity,” principal Alessandro Munge says. The experience begins when guests enter the restaurant via a stairwell clad in a luxurious gold leaf finish with dynamic elliptical cove lighting. In the dining room, a palette of high-contrast charcoal and gold dominates the space—a testament to firm’s powers of persuasion. “We managed to completely change chef’s opinion on gold,” Munge says. “He used to hate it.”


“We imagined the guest journey as a re-exploration of tradition"

- Alessandro Munge

In stark contrast, the low, undulating ceiling adorned with abstract indigo petals, evokes an almost oceanic feel. Munge says that the restaurant’s mobile centerpiece featuring artwork by Back’s mother, whose baby back rib recipe is also on the menu, was essential to making the space more personal for the chef. “It makes this outpost so much more than another kitchen to work in. It’s a residence he looks forward to coming back to.”


By Mikki Brammer for Surface