Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
Add: You are not supposed to know.
Price: 2000 RMB/person, 20 courses
Visited: May 2012
Please note that I have omitted some details of the meal in order to not spoil your actual visit.
“If you want to use the restroom, do it now,” our receptionist suggested, “because you won’t want to miss a second of the following hour.” Is she exaggerating? Most certainly not. A meal at Ultraviolet, Paul Pairet’s much awaited multi-sensorial concept restaurant, is an immersive dining experience that engages not only your taste buds, but also your eyes, nose, and ears. As I perused the 20-course menu while sipping a glass of pear cider (which was excellent, by the way) at Mr. and Mrs. Bund where we were waiting to be picked up, I couldn’t help but feeling a bit fidgety about what I was about to experience.
And off we went…into the unknown.
After a few twists and turns, we arrived at Ultraviolet. It’s housed in a nondescript building, its exterior telling you nothing about the grand secret that lurks inside, perhaps except this purple window that gleams subtly in the sun. Our receptionist left at this point, leaving us with nothing more than a cryptic line of “just wait, something will happen.”
The door slid open, and we ventured into a dark room dimly illuminated by purple neon light. Then, a thumping of heart beats, faster, faster…and faster.
With 2001: Space Odyssey‘s dramatic opening chords ushering us forward, our group passed through two more sliding doors, and – voilà – we were in the dining room. We were greeted by our host for the evening, who gave us a brief introduction of restaurant. From there on, our dinner unfolded like a surreal dream.
With the sounds of chirping birds, our surroundings transformed to an lush outdoor yard.
And we slowly descended…
Then the room turned dark, illuminated only by dim purple candlelights and the silhouette of a Gothic church. Accompanying that was the melody of Hell’s Bells by AC/DC, and a tailored-made “church” scent subtly filled the space.
A file of waiters entered the room quietly, and, in perfect synchrony, they placed the plate of amuse bouche in front of each guest. What is this glowing pill? An apple wasabi flavored ice ostie that woke up the palate instantly.
The walls then turned into a giant, self consuming cigarette, with Ennio Morricone’s Once Upon a Time in the West in the background. A glass of light sherry was served.
The dish, whimsically titled “Foie Gras – Can’t Quit“, is a cigarette of foie gras mousse wrapped in a candy coating. It’s served with cabbage ash on a silver ashtray, and along with the light sherry and the giant cigarette projection on the walls, the whole ensemble was complete.
Suddenly, thunder, followed by a gloomy rain.
But the sour ambience did not last long. As the table cheerfully transformed into a British flag, the mood instantly picked up with upbeat tunes from The Beatle’s Obladi Oblada. The waiters marched in with a jaunty smile, and set a brightly-colored plate in front of each of us.
What’s the British famous for? Fish & chips! But of course Paul has created a twist on this traditional dish and titled it “Micro Fish no Chips“. It’s a small flavor bomb of capers and anchovy, served with a small glass of 5 AM Saint beer by Brewdog.
We were then teleported to a foggy forest, and the table turned to Autumn soil. With a solo-piano piece on background and a specially-tailored scent of “Forest” permeating the air, a part of the wall slid open to reveal a giant camphor tree root. Yes, it’s a real Camphor tree.
What’s brought to us in this surrounding was “Truffle Burnt Soup Bread“, a Paul Pairet specialty since his days at Jade on 36 at the Pudong Shangri-la. As the waiter removed the glass dome, he gave me a second to take in the cigar smoke that lingered. The bread itself was a masterpiece, one side dipped in soy-butter sauce, the other grilled and topped with truffles.
The drink that accompanied this was Chardonnay 2009 Francis Coppola, from Monterey County, California.
Next, neon outlines of dragons sprawled across the dining table, and we were transferred to a festively red Chinese temple. A sweet smell of peaches hit our nostrils, and Teresa Teng’s Tian Mi Mi filled the air. We laughed in recognition of the familiar tune, and happily sipped down a bowl of “No Shark Fin Soup” – a peach and tomato chilled soup.
Before we knew it, there were carrots everywhere. Amidst the orange piles, we saw a live video from the kitchen, where Paul and his team were conjuring up our next dish.
We were then invited to join them in the kitchen…
…where we saw Paul himself in action.
Our teaser dinner ended with a glass of carrot ginger juice and a Suzette Carrot-Cake, which is unlike any other carrot cake you have tasted before. (Hint: the thing that looks like carrot is actually not carrot…)
These are just a few snapshots for you to get a taste of what Ultraviolet is like, but really, the experience of dining at this restaurant simply cannot be captured by words or pictures. You need to be there and soak everything up in the moment. It’s a meal that will keep you on your toes, eagerly awaiting to be surprised by the next dish. The parade is 20 courses long and will take 3~4 hours in total, with a seemingly hefty price of 2000 RMB, but this is not nearly enough to cover the cost of building and running this revolutionary restaurant. Before we say good-bye, here are some sneak peeks of the office area, where there are plenty of CCTVs and other high-tech gadgets to keep everything perfectly orchestrated.
There is also a space for after parties, and do go try the swanky restroom adorned with Bacarrat chandelier and Kohler’s newest Nu Mi toilet.
Upon exiting Ultraviolet, we passed by a wall signed by a few famous patrons who have already graced the restaurant. Even Alain Ducasse loved the experience, how can you afford to miss it?