10,000 Bones Cover the Walls of this Mexico Restaurant

10,000 Bones Cover the Walls of this Mexico Restaurant

By Patrick Sisson
Ignacio Cadena’s new Jalisco, Mexico restaurant concept, the aptly named Hueso, is covered in bones.

Locally sourced food and materials aren’t new in the world of high-end dining. But when designer Ignacio Cadena began working on a new concept in Jalisco, Mexico, for chef Alfonso Cadena, he took a whole new approach to sourcing material. After six months of digging and searching, he assembled a set of 10,000 bleached animal bones, which, when set in boxes with cooking utensils and objects in a way that calls to mind Robert Rauschenberg, turned the interior of the restaurant into a slightly macabre mural.

Hueso (which means bone in Spanish) features murals made from 10,000 bones, a reference to the chef’s natural cooking style. It’s part of a "Darwinian vision," says designer Ignacio Cadena, and required six months of scouring north Mexico, cleaning, and purifying to get the off-white skeletal pieces ready.

"It’s a bit of a Darwinian vision of how things work," says Cadena. "My dialogue with the chef was about a vision of his food, that we’ll still eat traditionally and eat animals in a raw, natural, and conscientious way."

Located in a former artist’s studio in a hip area of Jalisco, the restaurant is adorned with José Noé Suro custom ceramic tiles, inspired by the patterns made by local weavers. The pattern also reflects the kitchen’s ad-hoc, irreverent style.

Housed in a former artist’s studio, Hueso exudes a certain starkness and seriousness of purpose, from the custom tiles on the exterior (with a thicket of dashes based on the patterns of local weavers) to the long communal tables and basket at the host’s stand, a suggestion to drop off your phone before dining. While the design begs for attention, the long, continuous mural and shared seating put a focus on community and the chef’s own irreverent cooking.

The solid exterior reflects Cadena's concept of a skin, with a strong exterior layer that protects the more delicate, skeletal interior. The hanging bone at the entrance, a piece cast in aluminum, is meant to recall more simple, primitive signage from the past.

"He’s adventurous, like his cooking," says Cadena about the chef. "He doesn’t care what anybody thinks."

"The pieces told us what they wanted to do on the wall," Cadena says. The menagerie of bones, including pieces from boar, turtles, and even a whale's vertebrae, are deliberately off-white, so it doesn't come across as too pure. The tables and chairs are separated from the walls, so diners aren't too distracted by the details of the elaborate, hand-made murals, which include silverware, serving utensils, and pieces from books.

Cadena designed all the dishes, covering them with abstract, hand-drawn patterns inspired by his grandma's silverware.

"A lot of people were skeptical about the idea, even though it wasn't the first time I pulled off something crazy," Cadena says. "I just trusted my intuition and the philosophy of the chef."

Check holders are made from aluminum-cast bones.

One of the private dining rooms at Hueso includes a dead tree that Cadena says sat in front of the building for six years. Initially, he was going to design a suite of custom chairs for the restaurant, each one with individual features, but he settled on classic Thonet chairs instead.

While Hueso's design begs for attention, the long, continuous mural and shared seating put a focus on community and the chef’s own irreverent cooking. "He’s adventurous, like his cooking," says Cadena. "He doesn’t care about what anybody thinks."


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