Winter 2024

Beautiful Imperfection

At Noka, guests experience wabi-sabi along with local ingredients.

Words by Lisa Waterman Gray |  Photos by Josie Henderson


oka, a casual yet elegant new addition to midtown's Martini Corner, opened its doors for the first time last April. Drawing inspiration from a name that means “farmer” in Japanese, the dining space design is the result of a collaboration between chef and owner Amante Domingo (who also owns The Russell and other restaurants) and Celeste Antoine, the lead designer of Spirit Animal Interiors.

I hope guests get a true feeling of embracing beauty in imperfection...The sense that nothing is complete but is changing.”
- Restaurateur Amante Domingo

“The aesthetic is wabi-sabi (a Japanese view centered on the beauty of imperfection), with lots of plants and natural, rustic elements
mixed with different textures of stone, fabrics, et cetera, to soften up the vibe,” Celeste says. Imported 200- to 300-year-old Japanese pottery, wood mortars, benches and baskets throughout the restaurant and on tabletops create some privacy for diners in the family-style seating area. 

More privately, the bathrooms also align with the theme: sink basins—carved from locally sourced black granite boulders—sit atop reclaimed-wood bases. 

Against this serene backdrop, recent menu offerings included Crispy Beef Tongue with hot mustard, ginger and cucumber. Caramelo Sonoran-style tortillas (made in Lawrence) starred in the Octopus Tostada, and Elbow’s Sweet Jewels combined sweet potatoes and miso butter with Christopher Elbow’s bitter chocolate.   

“We use as many local ingredients as possible,” Amante says. He also enjoyed collaborating on Noka’s design. “Celeste and I have very similar tastes,” he says. “We have similar backgrounds working in fashion and styling, too.” 

“Every design idea I shared was well-received and executed to perfection,” Celeste says. “The main goal was to create a unique, natural and elevated space for guests to enjoy, gain a sense of togetherness and feel like they were possibly on vacation, right in their own city!”

“I hope guests get a true feeling of embracing beauty in imperfection,” Amante adds. “The sense that nothing is complete but is changing.”


Interior Designer: Spirit Animal Interiors, @spiritanimalinteriors

Restaurant: Noka, @nokakansascity


You may also like these articles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *