This Houston canteen’s colorful and earthy interior is begging to be posted to your Instagram. da Gama Canteen blends Indian and Portuguese influences with a local Houston flair to create a dining experience that can’t be missed. With pops of yellow in their oculus ceiling and on their commercial outdoor chairs that evoke the delightful spices found in their cuisine, and earthy botanical green details like their lush potted plants and the powder coats on their steel restaurant chairs, the color palette of this space was curated to perfection. For color inspiration, look no further da Gama.
Located within the M-K-T, a multi-use, walkable, and innovative dreamscape of architectural design imagined by Michael Hsu, the restaurant overlooks Lawrence Park, perfect for an afternoon of hiking and biking. Hsu’s Office of Architecture, which emphasizes empathy, connection with nature, and community in their work, was a perfect pick to design da Gama where not only do friends and family meet to enjoy dining, but so do ages of history and culture.
Da Gama is named after Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea, leading to the establishment of the spice trade. The owners, married couple Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio of Rishi Hospitality, have backgrounds in both Portugal and India. Personal objects and artworks were brought into the space to really highlight their story, including a vintage door made of carved wood imported from India. They also worked closely with a graphic designer to create the gorgeous murals of figs, coriander, and star anise behind the booths and on the exterior. Spice motifs can be found throughout da Gama's interior and exterior.
We spoke with designer Erin Hamilton from the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture about working on bringing this restaurant to life. One of the challenges she faced was starting the project at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re very lucky this project already had a takeout window baked into the design,” Hamilton said. “That is being introduced into especially restaurant projects, where you have to think about where to go orders are being picked up… There’s definitely a shift to the outside.” This has led Hamilton to consider the outside experience of the space for customers whenever she’s working on a project.
We also asked her for the design tip she wished restaurant owners considered when imagining their ideal space. “With a little more natural materials, you can start to show a bit of that patina,” she said. “I think that adds to the project, instead of fighting against it. I think that’s a natural part of the commercial space… That’s something that is hard to convince people to do sometimes, just because the natural inclination is to use a bulletproof tabletop instead of using stone or wood.”
Yellow Hula Chair. Image by Chase Daniel.
There are tons of restaurant seating options both indoors and outdoors beneath gorgeous, rounded archways, on soft upholstered benches, or at their modern bar on steel restaurant chairs, where a long list of natural and organic wines or decadent cocktails are available.
We would love to be sitting on their patio right now, with its bright yellow commercial outdoor chairs and clean white tables, decorated with lush potted plants and a view of the park. The strings of lights hanging above the tables would make this place a lovely evening stop when it’s cooler outside.
If you love this design you'll love this stunning polished casual restaurant that was also designed by Michael Hsu featuring the Leo Chair.