Absolutely dishy

KOI Abu Dhabi, a stylish contemporary Japanese restaurant, is the latest dining venue to open on Saadiyat island in the UAE. Designed by Paul Bishop, the owner and managing partner of Bishop Design, the restaurant’s interior mixes the dining and lounge concept in a warm and classy atmosphere.

Koi is a well-known American restaurant brand that serves contemporary Japanese cuisine and Koi Abu Dhabi is the group’s newest addition to its restaurant portfolio, which includes high-profile branches in Los Angeles, New York, and Las Vegas (all in the US) and Bangkok in Thailand.

Describing the project, Bishop says: “Koi is located within The Collection at The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi. Its gross floor area is approximately 640 sq m with an additional 1,227 sq m external area. The venue’s experiences are divided between 60 per cent dining and 40 per cent lounge. Guests are greeted by fire and water elements at the entrance before arriving at the lounge, which offers a variety of funky seating options for pre-dinner drinks or casual dining. A bamboo wall divides the lounge and restaurant where one can discover the choice of dining at a sushi counter, casual tables or Koi signature booths.”


Design concept

The client wanted a contemporary Japanese restaurant that is stylish yet comfortable. Additional conditions were the use of locally and regionally sourced materials and goods so as to obtain a high-quality look at the best value, particularly through the use of energy-efficient lighting that would result in reduced electrical and mechanical loads. “Koi is a perfect example of how the intelligent use of materials and finishes could be applied to the interior and exterior dimensions to create an enhanced dynamic within both the internal and external areas,” says Bishop.

He continues: “The initial design concept of Koi’s interior dynamics evolved out of the inherited conditions presented by the site and of the architectural envelope thereof. We then designed and incorporated unique walkways within the restaurant that provide access to its different areas in a way that is both visually and architecturally pleasing. This resulted in the use of dynamic spiralling floor plates, which subsequently transform into a series of platforms/landings rising up through a central void where a natural vegetated garden, bespoke finishes and water features adorn the wall surfaces. The platforms then penetrate beyond the void to form a series of shifting floor plates that, in turn, form playful reflective organic ceiling and lighting features above.”

The flexibility of the venue is expressed through the use of transparent and translucent sheer panels that can be used to close areas within, allowing for independent rooms to be formed while distressed vertical wooden panels create an animated backdrop that provide guests with the ability to still view the restaurant beyond the ‘room’. Additionally, while VIP dining and lounge areas are the focal points on each level, there is still enough space to allow for additional dining/lounge elements to be enjoyed by guests.



A variety of the materials applied within exude style yet remain understated. The finishes include rusted metal plates, flamed sheet steel, timber sleepers, weathered woods, injection moulded concrete, natural bush milled stone and honed slates through to re-claimed timber crates and recycled bottle containers, whilst surface printed graphics and sheers adorn both horizontal and vertical dynamics within.

“The diversity of the space unfolds visually as guests enter the restaurant through the use of horizontal and vertical design elements and water flows, which overlap so as to create a fluid form that connects the restaurant’s various levels. Further to the architectural and design elements already in place, the use of varying raw and finished materials create a unique, animated backdrop and visual experience within Koi,” Bishop says.

Various finishes were applied to a multitude of the horizontal and vertical wooden surfaces that adorn the interior and exterior alike, including a combination of weathered, distressed, open and closed grain finishes. This desired design intent was accented through the use of oak, walnut and teak wood.

“The hardwood was also intricately engineered, the detail and design applied create a variety of differing surface dynamics such as carved, embossed and fret-cut panels that were then installed throughout Koi to create dynamic visual enclosures to both the interior and exterior spatial areas,” Bishop says.

Leather fabric as well as custom-made decorative pendant chandeliers and lamps have been used throughout the seating areas, while materials such as concrete tiles, metal sheet flooring, and natural teak wood were sourced locally from suppliers in the UAE.