From Pleasure Island to Disney Springs: A Remarkable Transition from AO&A
Its 23, 000 gross square feet of industrial themed space used to be shrouded in darkness, punctuated by pulsing colored lights and strobes with a revolving dance floor. Now, the building feels light and airy, opened out and invigorated by innovative and inviting design. This irresistibly attractive place is the newly opened ‘Morimoto Asia’ restaurant, located at the site that was once home to Mannequins and 8-Trax, nightclubs of the former Pleasure Island complex at what is now known as Disney Springs.
It was the job of AO&A to deliver every aspect of this remarkable transition. Considerable demolition and reinvention of the building was necessary to give form and function to this new two-story restaurant, inspired by the innovative Pan-Asian cuisine of world famous Chef Masaharu Morimoto and the renowned Patina Restaurant Group. Since opening his first restaurant in Philadelphia in 2001, Chef Morimoto, star of hit TV show ‘Iron Chef’, has created a global dining empire with venues in Mumbai, New Delhi, Boca Raton, Chicago, Maui, Mexico City, Napa, New York City, South Beach, and Waikiki. ‘Morimoto Asia’ is the chef’s largest restaurant to date, with more than 500 seats and a menu featuring a fusion of Asian dishes including Sushi, Korean-style ‘Buri Bop’, Vietnamese-style ‘pho ga’ and Chinese-style Peking Duck. All creations are accompanied by Morimoto’s wide range of sake wines.
The design of ‘Morimoto Asia’ incorporated elements from the original ‘factory’ style of the ‘Mannequins’ building, including the old conveyor belts, which have been turned into a spiralling chandelier of illuminated glass bottles. A 270ft ‘sculptural bar’ winds through the 36-foot high space to connect the grand dining room on the ground floor with the upper level as a single ribbon. Custom design highlights include handcrafted mosaics on the walls and floors and Japanese calligraphy created by a calligrapher from Morimoto’s hometown of Hiroshima.
Tasked with pulling all these distinct elements together, AO&A Project Manager Oksana Wall led an Orlando-based, seasoned team of professionals. Wall reflects, “The project required a team that could dovetail high standards, the renovation of an existing space, difficult logistics, site accessibility and an extremely demanding schedule. We were a team with a history of success and Morimoto Asia is a great project we will remember throughout our careers.”
Mike Ostendorf, Co-Founder of AO&A explains, “AO&A has a long standing relationship with both Patina and Disney, and together we have built some of Orlando’s most premier culinary destinations. Morimoto Asia will provide a world-class experience for its guests and Patina Restaurant Group, as well. It has already proven to be a rewarding project and another success for our growing company.”
Ostendorf continues, “Renovations are always more challenging than a new-build, and this project proved no different. Chef Morimoto brings with him a reputation for an unconventional Asian dining experience. Part of our job was to ensure that the high expectations for quality were met and exceeded.”
Asked what aspect of the job he is most proud of, Mike responds, “We built a gorgeous show kitchen that I think everybody is going to talk about. In fact, the kitchen and food prep areas in the building take up more floor space than the guest dining areas. It’s really something to see.”
Chef Morimoto honored Japanese tradition by breaking open a sacred cask of sake, and he pleased the crowd by turning a 100-pound Hawaiian tuna into a 60-foot long maki roll. The AO&A team took particular pleasure in establishing a productive working relationship with Chef Morimoto. In turn, he was impressed enough by their ganbatte (“Do your best!”) work ethic that he honored them by wearing an AO&A hard hat for a photo just before painting his official signature for the restaurant in Kanji characters.
The team is still basking in a bit of well-earned pride, but there is still plenty of work to do on upcoming developments in Disney Springs and elsewhere around the world of themed entertainment. In the meantime, we hope everyone will come out and sample the creative cuisine and vital atmosphere of this newest addition to the fast-growing Disney Springs.
The restaurant’s grand opening took place on September 30, 2015.
For more information visit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/disney-springs/morimoto-asia/
AO&A is comprised of top design-and-build professionals in the themed entertainment and hospitality industry with offices in Orlando, FL and Shanghai, PRC. Their team brings decades of talent and experience to theme parks, resorts, interactive media, location based entertainment and live entertainment productions around the world. Starting with a consistent philosophy of putting themselves in the guests’ shoes, we have distinguished ourselves through a unique combination of creative vision and a practical, down-to-Earth approach to getting things done. In an industry that values a futuristic vision, AO&A leads industry innovation on unique projects for clients who share their adventurous drive to make the impossible a reality. The best is yet to come!