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Otonali, a Japanese-Inspired Restaurant in Brittany

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Otonali, a Japanese-Inspired Restaurant in Brittany

January 9, 2019

New from French chef Bertrand Larcher, owner of the Breizh Café empire of Breton-style crêperies: Otonali, a restaurant in St.-Malo, Brittany, which combines traditional Japanese dishes with Breton ingredients and influences.

Larcher opened his first crêpe restaurant in Tokyo back in 1996 and has since expanded to nine locations across Japan plus three in France: in Cancale, Paris, and St.-Malo. Though the crêperies are unabashedly in the Breton style—they use the traditional buckwheat batter and each restaurant offers a range of more than 60 ciders—they have incorporated Japanese influence over time, and in 2013 Larcher partnered with a Japanese chef to open a fully Japanese restaurant in Brittany that has since earned a Michelin star.

Otonali, which means “next door” in Japanese, sits next to Breizh Café St.-Malo. It was designed by Guillaume Terver, interior architect at Le LAD in Paris, who interpreted Larcher’s passion for raw ingredients with an understated dining room of black, wood, and clay. A large open kitchen takes center stage, while communal tables and bar seating extend the informality of Larcher’s crêperies. To help celebrate the natural wines of the region, the architect commissioned a raw-clay wine cellar from a Breton ceramicist, which is embedded inside the front wall. Lightly finished oak logs, unstained concrete floors, and hand-cut wood joinery round out the barely polished look of the space.

Photography by Guillaume Terver, courtesy of Le LAD.

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Above: An 18-seat communal table at the front of the restaurant is made of oak planks, with table legs of large oak logs. The bar stools are Heldu from Basque furniture company Alki.

The guiding theme of the design was “conviviality,” says architect Guillaume Terver. “The large table, with its irregular form, allows diners to feel relaxed, alone or in a group. You are never too far from your neighbor.”

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Above: The star of the front room is a wine cellar that doubles as an art installation, designed and fabricated by ceramist Philippe Josse, who is based in Plancoët, Brittany.
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Above: Would-be diners can wait on oak log stools—the same design serves as the table legs for the communal table—which have smoothly sanded tops and are stained with black oil from Malouinères in St.-Malo. The restaurant was previously a butcher shop; above the stools, whitewashed butcher’s hooks are embedded into the ceiling.
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Above: To the right of the front door sits an antique buckwheat press, a nod to the buckwheat flour used in Bertrand’s crêpes.
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Above: The kitchen lies directly opposite the communal table, so diners can watch Bertrand and company at work.

The communal table and bar seating makes “diners discover their meal together, so everyone wants to try what the person sitting next to them is having,” the architect says.

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Above: The work surface with integrated sink is made of Celtic granite with a leather finish. “Everything is prepared by the chef, in front of your eyes, who is also close to the table,” Terver says.
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Above: The architect left some aged tiles from the butcher shop on a white-painted column in the dining room. “We wanted to play with the contrast between what remained of its past and our own intervention,” he says.
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Above: Stainless steel skillets, sieves, and knives serve as useful decoration on the kitchen’s back wall.
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Above: The ceramic tableware is all made by Japanese artists.

In July, Larcher is opening a gallery next door to Otonali that will specialize in Japanese-Breton ceramics.

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Above: The wheel-shaped caps in the wine cellar are removable; servers remove and replace them to take a bottle out from the cellar.

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