PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK MEDIANA
It’s not often that restaurant reviews in the consumer magazine Food & Wine or regional press such as Portland Oregon Restaurant News & Food Events devote as much space detailing the décor of a new restaurant as they do the cuisine. The exception appears to be the recently opened Jackrabbit, situated inside the lobby of boutique hotel The Duniway in Portland, Oregon.
Jackrabbit is the brainchild of noted chef Chris Cosentino, who has appeared on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef America, Chefs vs. City, and was the winner of Season 4 of BRAVO TV’s Top Chef Masters. With the help of business partner Oliver Wharton and parent company Delicious Mfg. & Co., he launched Cockscomb restaurant in San Francisco several years ago.
Cosentino’s decision to move 600+ miles north to establish his next eatery was partly due to his passion for biking and his enjoyment of the prominent cycling culture in Portland. While restaurant reviews praise the “gutsy, meat-forward menu” – and give kudos for the inventive cocktails featuring locally distilled gin infused with ginger, lemon, passionfruit, and beets – they also show admiration for the unique furnishings such as the custom nine-foot centerpiece lighting fixture comprised of recycled bicycle frames made by Savoy Studios of Portland.
Even the name of the restaurant pays tribute to the local culture; jackrabbits are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest and they’re also a featured dish on the menu. Cosentino’s forte is his creative use of offal (i.e. the entrails and internal organs of an animal used as food). The menu has plenty of unusual offerings such as “Meat in a Can,” a pig’s head with chicories, and his signature “brainaise.” An interior window facing diners clearly showcases the fresh meat hanging inside.
In addition to local ingredients, Cosentino was adamant about sourcing the building materials regionally including burnt woods, Oregon black walnut and white oak, leather, and steel. Local artists were commissioned to enhance the predominantly earth-toned ambiance with paintings; plus Firebird 3D/Bronze artist Chad Caswell, Jackrabbit, and PUNCH Architecture (which designed the restaurant) collaborated to create a 32-inch bronze Jackrabbit sculpture as a focal point. As a whimsical touch, three neon signs were custom-crafted for the space: a gold Jackrabbit for outside, a red heart, and an oyster drinking a beer.
The team at Illuminate Lighting Design, a subdivision of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), was responsible for the lighting design of Jackrabbit and kept the three principles of Simplicity, Sustainability & Authenticity in mind when creating a synergy of built environment and dining experience.
In all, Jackrabbit is designed as a series of vignettes with two dining areas, private dining rooms, a bar, a hotel lobby coffee bar, a raw bar with seafood display, and a meat display refrigerator. The lighting scenes needed to create varied moods throughout the day from bright and airy at breakfast to a cozier, relaxed feeling for late night and after hours.
“There are several options for diners when they come to the restaurant, each with its own vibe or experience,” explains Senior Designer Neha Sivaprasad, LC, LEED AP of Illuminate Lighting Design. “The two-sided bar that opens to the hotel lobby on one side, and the restaurant at the other has a high-energy vibe. In addition, there is an oyster and ham ‘action’ bar where one can order seafood and cured meats along with drinks.” Having two dining areas gives guests the option of having either a more open feeling or a more intimate atmosphere.
There are also three private dining rooms for large groups and events. “The lighting in each of these spaces caters to the experience the design intends to craft,” Sivaprasad states. “For example, the feel of the open dining area is enhanced with large, sparkling chandeliers (with functional architectural lighting hidden in the high ceiling above); the intimate dining experience is underscored by lighting specifically aimed and focused on tabletops from architectural fixtures hidden within the wooden beams above. The high-energy vibe of the bar is amplified by creating highlights and sparkle using directional accent lighting and bottle display-shelf integrated lighting.”
While the decorative lighting fixtures, such as the recycled bicycle frame chandelier, are meant to be noticed, there are other lighting elements that are more discrete. For example, lighting fixtures are hidden among the wood beams in the ceiling to provide the functional lighting on table surfaces, but are strategically placed in order to give the decorative fixtures prominence.
The Illuminate Lighting Design team utilized a combination of recessed and stem-mount downlights at 2700K with 90 CRI to light the tables and the food on display; decorative ceiling and wall fixtures in a warmer 2200K provide a warm glow that complements the interior. Key features such as brick walls, leather-clad walls, and burnt wood screens are grazed with tighter beam downlights and linear grazers. An additional layer of light is supplied by linear LED fixtures.
Such complex design is not without its challenges. “A large number of detailed lighting layers were employed to achieve a seamless lighting scheme,” Sivaprasad remarks. “Some of those lighting layers include sparkling chandeliers, architectural fixtures hidden in the ceiling, wall lighting that highlights texture, display shelving with integrated lighting, and accent lights to highlight art. Matching color temperatures among the vast number of fixtures, lamps, and application types was also a challenge. Some experimentation had to be done – especially with the decorative fixture lamps – in order to get the look and feel of the space just right.”
Controlling the various light levels and scenes is handled via a central dimming panel with an astronomical time clock that controls all of the LED lighting fixtures, which are dimmable down to one percent. Not surprisingly, the lighting scenes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, and cleaning are preprogrammed into the system and change automatically throughout the day. According to Sivaprasad, the fade times for the scene changes are set in a way that the lighting modifications are unnoticeable to the guests and diners. A remote control touch pad station is integrated at the host counter for additional changes to the scenes or for scheduling a special event. Furthermore, each of the private dining rooms has a wall station with four pre-programmed scenes, which can also be controlled using the touch pad at the host counter.
With all of the regional touches that Jackrabbit offers casual diners as well as die-hard foodies, there seems little doubt that this unusual eatery will retain its design and culinary distinction in Portland for years to come.
Design Firm: PUNCH Architecture; offices in Las Vegas, Denver, and Los Angeles
Lighting Design: Illuminate Lighting Design; offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Shanghai, New Delhi, Dubai, and Jakarta
architectural lighting manufacturers
LF illumination: Julie stem mount LED cylinder pendant
Lucifer Lighting: CY1 surface-mounted adjustable LED cylinder
Gotham Lighting: Incito 2-inch round recessed downlights
Volt Lighting: Linear LED lensed tape light
Winona Lighting: Surface-mounted linear LED wall grazer
Hevilite: Surface wall-mounted LED cylinder light decorative lighting manufacturers
Savoy Studios: All custom decorative light fixtures including bike chandeliers in the main dining room, brass chandelier at the bar, decorative steel bulb art wall light, wood timber chandelier at main dining room
Rejuvenation & Schoolhouse Electric: All other decorative light fixtures including smaller pendants and wall sconces.