maître d’ - Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai
Written by Lim Sio Hui
French avant-garde chef Paul Pairet’s bold new restaurant indulges more than just tastebuds: each night in this windowless room at an undisclosed Shanghai address, 10 diners get to go on a gastronomic journey unlike any other.
“My passion is food, I want to cook at my best,” explains Pairet, who came up with the concept of aligning the dining experience with ’psychotaste’, his belief that food is ultimately about emotion that is influenced by the memory of the dining experience.
Using heightened sensory settings created with computerised lighting systems, 360-degree high-definition projectors, scent diffusers, infra-red cameras, laser speakers, and even an air turbine that emits hot or cold air, Ultraviolet offers “a meal where the technology defining the atmosphere is synchronised with the food and supposed to strengthen it”, he says.
The menu is just as experimental, offering an impressive 22-course fixed menu including alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage pairing. The current list includes many of the chef’s signature creations from his days helming Pudong Shangri-La hotel’s acclaimed Jade on 36 restaurant, which propelled him to international stardom between 2005 and 2008.
Truffle Burnt Soup Breadis a stand-out, a truffle-topped medley of crusty and soft bread made even more addictive by a tangy meunière sauce, presented in a cool, fog-filled forest setting presided over by a colossal camphor tree root. Another celebrated course is Foie Gras Can’t Quit, a cigarillo form with creamy foie gras filling covered by a crispy fruity casing accompanied by cabbage ‘ash’, made even more addictive with the aural pairing of an Ennio Morricone classic Western score.
Behind the scenes
What goes into realising this RMB 2,000 (US$320) dinner? At first glance, Ultraviolet is minimalist and understated, except in the bathroom design, dominated by an imposing Baccarat crystal chandelier – this was a gift from the French luxury brand, with whom Pairet almost realised this concept back in 2002.
Brands such as Miele, Fissler, and Enomatic are also sponsors behind what's one of the most technologically advanced kitchens in Asia, so the main bulk of the cost comes from operations alone, with a staff count of 25 looking after a mere 10 diners each night.
A ’techno room’ sits by the kitchen, where a team controls the sound, lighting, and other sensory effects while monitoring the pace and reaction of the diners in the restaurant via 12 CCTV cameras. Jokes Pairet: “The good thing is I can now control the team from the beach in Bali...”