Studio BBA’s design of Mamahuhu, a casual Chinese-American restaurant in the Inner Richmond, can be described as a fresh expression of its cuisine — forward-thinking, lighthearted, and a tad eccentric.
Striving to satisfy a craving for nostalgic flavors done in a modern and healthful way, Mamahuhu owners, Chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s (another Studio BBA-designed restaurant) and Ben Moore and Anmao Sun of Hunter Gatherer, called on BBA to create an elevated but accessible design. The space accommodates counter-service style dining with a resolved option for guests to be in and out quickly without disrupting the vibrant dining experience.
To execute the owners’ vision for a fun, easy and casual environment that calls to mind Chinese-American heritage, BBA employed unexpected design choices through architectural details and materials that support the brand experience. A mix of high and low materials strike the right balance between approachable and refined.
From the exterior, variegated storefront tiling welcomes guests and just inside, a vintage lantern at the frontmost communal table sets the stage for an experience. The story continues through arched openings and unique design details like tile stripes in the dining area and a sculptural skylight condition above the point-of-sale and in the bathroom.
BBA’s design considers everyone’s experience — a person waiting in the queue, a single diner, family dining, takeout, delivery, while up leveling the kitchen and front of house staff. The entire space is methodically designed to encourage social interactions with flexible seating opportunities and ample circulation space.
A large, bar-height table for big groups and single diners alike activate the storefront. Beyond, cozy booths with low lighting provide intimate eddies in the middle of the flow of circulation and flexible two tops and banquette seating offer additional dining options. A clearly defined queue manages busy lines and takeout, eliminating confusion. Design aesthetics complement the colorful cuisine, letting the food speak for itself and providing a warm dining opportunity on an overcast day in the Inner Richmond.