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M.Y. China is a 7,000 SF, 200-seat restaurant designed for the celebrated restaurateur and television personality Martin Yan. The restaurant is a reflection of Yan's life and experiences, with a design that riffs on traditional patterns, textures and materials found in China in a distinctly modern American way.

site context

M.Y. China is located under the historic dome of San Francisco's Westfield Centre, at the heart of Market Street's bustling dining and shopping district.

Located mid-level within the city's premier shopping venue - the largest urban shopping venue west of the Mississippi - a particular challenge was resolving the technical complexities of inserting a striking vision for the restaurant seamlessly into the highly complex shell building environment.


The restaurant was conceived as a reflection of Martin Yan and his experiences, both in China and the US. A longtime Bay Area resident, he has spoken frequently about having two homes - one deeply rooted in China and the other just outside San Francisco. In his book Martin Yan's China, he notes his "impressions, memories, and understanding of, and my deep rooted feelings for, the complex and captivating country of my birth," often referring to the warm memories as a young boy of watching his mother's masterful cooking at home in Guangzhou.

Yan's cooking blends a mastery of traditional Chinese techniques with western sensibilities and a keen understanding of the American palette. Exploring this "blend," as well as capturing his boundless passion and knack for showmanship and entertainment, became early sources of inspiration for the design of the restaurant.


Natural, timeless, honed materials form an aesthetic that is expressive of Yan's Chinese-American heritage. Matte-white tile was chosen for the facade in order to establish a strong presence against the marble backdrop of the dome, and forms a visual tie with the expansive exhibition kitchen inside.

As a nod to Yan's legendary skill with a cleaver, dining surfaces are American black walnut edge grain butcher block wood tops, while meticulously stacked serveware in full height cabinetry lends visual texture to the dining room.

Conceived as contrasting environments, the Bell Bar and Temple Room anchor each end of the restaurant. The Bell Bar is an extroverted expression of communal gathering, centered around an 1,800 lb salvaged monastery bell that hovers dramatically above the sweeping bottle display behind the bar. The atmospheric Temple Room shimmers with backlit patterned steel panels beneath incense-like ceiling fixtures. A lacquered black box at the end of the room contains a treasured collection of revered Buddhist icons - 18 gold cloisonne monks.


M.Y. China's interior is driven by a rich visual dialogue between the cooking and dining environments. At the entrance, diners can enjoy meals underneath the historic Westfield dome. Inside, an expansive exhibition kitchen forms a dramatic backdrop to the central dining area. Two 19-foot brushed aluminum beam table supports in the main dining area provide flexibility of seating through the attached sliding table tops, creating both communal and smaller, more intimate dining options. Anchoring each side of the restaurant are the Bell Bar and Temple Room.


final design

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