Homes & Design Photo Credit: Colin Way

Design Crush: Pan-Asian Restaurant Foreign Concept

Designer Alykhan Velji seamlessly combines modern colonial influences and Asian accents at Chef Duncan Ly’s new Calgary restaurant.

When celebrated chef Duncan Ly decided to open a restaurant in Calgary, he went straight to YYC local (and 2016 Designers of the Year finalist) Alykhan Velji, principal and senior designer of Alykhan Velji Designs.

Ly wanted his restaurant, Foreign Concept, to look like it had been there forever: he wanted “to create a dining experience that was casual and comfortable, but refined,” say Velji, who brought the vision to life by combining modern colonial influences with Asian accents.

One challenge with any large space—Foreign Concept measures 3,500 square-feet and seats 110 patrons—is creating an intimate dining area, so Velji and his team selected a warm, inviting colour palette that’s not “too edgy or modern—it’s somewhere people feel comfortable to come for a nice drink or dinner.” Ly’s menu also came into play: like the food (pan-Asian cuisine with a French flair), the design is “a nod to the Asian, but not over the top,” says Velji. “You can see the elements of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.”

Velji opted for natural wood tables and brought in a handful of custom pieces (wall murals, metal screens, brass-and-oak floors) to create a “unique dining experience [that changes] depending on which area you’re seated in,” he says. Everything comes together to form an elegant and cohesive space that feels as if it’s always been there.

Velji and his team designed the motif that appears on the metal screens (used to divide the dining spaces from the lounge) throughout the restaurant. The screens align with the modern colonial theme while allowing natural light to shine through.
One custom hand-painted mural is seen as soon as you walk in the space; Velji sourced the image, inspired by traditional Chinese chinoiserie, online.
A wall of antique moon cake molds were brought in from China to decorate the lounge.
Two custom wall murals are seen in the dining spaces. The photos were enlarged and had colour added to them (primarily a deep turquoise) to better match the palette of the restaurant. The colours were picked to be “warm and inviting with a modern touch,” says Velji
Custom wood work (like the dark oak and brass floors) can be seen throughout the space. The tables were designed in collaboration with local furniture designers Room B: the four post design contributes to a more comfortable dining experience.

Foreign Concept

1011 1 St. SW, Calgary
Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. 10:00 p.m.

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