Journey to the centre of the earth

Pairet’s Ultraviolet. An incredible psycho-gustative odyssey lasting 4 hours and 22 dishes

20-06-2013
A table with only 10 seats, 22 dishes served over

A table with only 10 seats, 22 dishes served over 4 hours, with the aid of waiters as well as audio and video technicians: this is the synthesis of Ultraviolet, a restaurant in Shanghai, China, conceived by French chef Paul Pairet. The address is unknown and there is no telephone number: if you want to live this experience (2.500 yuan, about 300 euros) you need to send an email to info@uvbypp.cc. The meeting point is at Mr&Miss Bund: from there, you will be guided by limo to the restaurant (blindfold!)

The premise: the food is of the highest quality and food, with 22 dishes each paired by a different drink (ranging from wine to beer, from cider to aromatised water and tea), is the protagonist of the sensorial parkour lasting over 4 hours that you’re about to experience. The journey, however, is like a novel divided into phases, which implies different feelings. The first impression is that of participating in a delicious, but also a little intimidating, Truman Show.

The foie gras cigarette

The foie gras cigarette

In fact, thanks to two engineers and 4 audio and video technicians, French chef Paul Pairet controls timings, modes, reactions, and environment up to the taste buds of the guests of the Ultraviolet… and this while having his weapons in the kitchen and his joysticks in the hi-tech control room. After the first half hour, the tension gradually turns into curiosity, the waiting becomes acknowledgment and the open mouth swoons. One single dining table, seating ten people,- table and chairs are in a Matrix-style – is placed inside an imax-space with images all around, dolby surround, and digital diffusers of essences: you sit and realise you have handed your freedom of will to demiurge Pairet and his psycho-taste experience.

At the sound of a countdown the room becomes the set of "Journey to the centre of the earth”: walls seem to move and the table looks like it is plummeting into the abyss. A bell appears while the notes of AC/DC "Hells bells" play and 10 waiters dressed up as in a Mclaren box and led by talented general manager Fabien Verdier, serve the first of 22 dishes: the Ostie, a host made with apple granita and wasabi. Pairet’s cuisine is in fact a wise mixture of European tradition with strong Asian influences.

Fabien Verdier

Fabien Verdier

Then other shots arrive one after the other such as Foie gras cigarette (already a classic at Mr & Miss Bund), the pop-rock Oyster with green tea, the Crispy fish with capers and anchovies, the Cuttlefish with Sichuan spices, the Lobster cooked in seawater, the Bruschettina with truffle (the only dish Pairet kept since Jade on 36), up until the Bouillabaisse and the Frozen cucumber lollipop. All this while the setting changes and each dish is accompanied by sensorial inspirations that have the guest go deep to the root of the ingredients (for instance, in the case of the lobster, you’re immersed in the images and sounds of the waves against the rocks, while salt essences are spread around the room).

Once the first part is over, the main courses begin. There’s the Seabass inspired by Ducasse’s Louis XV, the Lamb rib with truffle, the Grilled (non-grilled) Wagyu fillet, the alchemic Strawberry gazpacho, until the show within the show given by the cheese put in the microwave oven and the Crispy salad served among the fumes of dried ice. It needs to be pointed out that all dishes, on top of being remarkable, are always served in a very fun and unassuming way. Ultraviolet is everything but snobbish. Verdier is very good at playing on a pretended clumsiness, when he hints at a veronica in offering a dish, when he says “ole”, when serving the gazpacho or even tries a sirtaki dance before the Hellenic carrot cake. The service affability is the perfect counterpart for the hi-tech iciness.

Paul Pairet and Claudio Grillenzoni

Paul Pairet and Claudio Grillenzoni

The experience finishes with the visit to the high-tech kitchen and with the bustle around the chef while he prepares one of the 5 desserts, what with questions, photos, and super easy-going jokes. The novel thus reaches its happy ending. It’s hard to say if Ultraviolet is the most tasty, techno, small or bizarre restaurant in Asia. Let’s leave the awards to the experts. However, it is certainly one of the most experimental and challenging, one of the most fun and accomplished of the recent past.


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China Grill

Tasty reports from China and the Far East from our collaborator Claudio Grillenzoni