Former Noma chef Thomas Frebel’s new restaurant in the heart of bustling Tokyo is an invigorating blend of Japanese and Nordic heritage.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Former Noma chef Thomas Frebel’s new restaurant in the heart of bustling  Tokyo is an invigorating blend of Japanese and Nordic heritage.

The entrance to the restaurant is bright, airy and welcoming.

When a former chef from the world’s best restaurant opens a restaurant in Tokyo, you can expect not just an exciting menu, but also an uber- chic interior that offers an unparalleled dining experience. Inua (from the Inuit term, “the life force that runs through nature”), a 60-seat eatery helmed by chef Thomas Frebel, is a partnership with chef Rene Redzepi (co-owner of Noma) and Kadokawa Corporation. 

“Thomas Frebel is a man who knows what he wants. He spent a year researching in Japan to find the best food makers and local ingredients,” says Thomas Lykke, head of design and founder of OEO Studio, a Copenhagen-based firm which worked on Inua’s interior. “The brief was to design a unique destination, a place like no other that blends Nordic design with Japanese.”

Much like the menu which focuses on Nordic- influenced dishes with Japanese ingredients, the 700 sq m restaurant space also reflects a novel blend of Japanese and Nordic elements, creating a whole new aesthetic to wow guests and put them at ease at the same time. 

My Reading Room

Natural light fills much of the space in the restaurant.

“Inua is an abundance of tactility and materiality and all colours are carefully picked and created. It is a subtle and muted palette where there is a clear thread and connection,” says OEO managing partner Anne- Marie Buemann. “We have created an ambience that is relaxed and embracing. The styling and furniture is a mix of old and new, and bespoke elements.” 

At the start of the design process, a material mood board consisting of Denmark- sourced materials was created. The design team went on to find alternative products in Japan that had the same values of materiality but were slightly different in size, shape and finish. 

“Our vision for the design of Inua is to have Japanese people feel that it is very Nordic and, on the other hand, we want the Westerners to have the feeling that it is very Japanese in spirit,” explains Thomas Lykke. 

My Reading Room

Chef Thomas Frebel.

A colour palette of muted warm grey hues, blue, green and burnt clay tones runs through the restaurant, with darker and lighter shades used to divide the space and provide ambient zoning. Enhancing the overall interior design is the ceiling grid design inspired by the lines of tatami flooring. 

“We’ve carefully planned the space so that no matter where you are inside, you’ll always have a great view of the kitchen and the lounge, etc. It has a homey feel to it and is inspired by Danish architecture from the ’60s and ’70s,” says Thomas Lykke. 

More than just bespoke elements, Inua also boasts elegant custom pieces specially designed by OEO Studio. “The tables and dining chairs in the private dining room are from the Jari collection (“jari” means pebbles in Japanese), made in collaboration with Danish makers Brdr. Kruger,” says Anne-Marie.

My Reading Room

The mix of grey hues and wooden textures results in a unique look with an East-meets- West feel.

“The table tops resemble pebble stones when spread out in the dining room. They are ‘soft’ in look and are slightly asymmetrical. The Jari chair has a sleekly crafted backrest that resembles both a perfectly shaped stone at the beach or driftwood shaped by nature over time.” 

Inua’s beautiful Japanese- inspired details interpreted with a Nordic edge pay homage to cultural influences and, at the same time, are a nod to Danish strong traditions in carpentry and cabinet making. 

Inua, 2-13-12 Fujimi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8552 Japan.