Paul Pairet’s secret new restaurant is a feast for the senses
By Amy Fabris-Shi
The dining room is plunged into darkness. AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” blasts from surround-sound speakers, and a procession of male and female attendants in black suits enters solemnly. We open our lips as a frozen wasabi apple “ostie” is placed on our tongues, communion style. And so begins the otherworldly Ultraviolet experience—a kind of Cirque du Soleil of fine-dining whimsy by French chef Paul Pairet.
Pairet, 47, is already something of a culinary cult figure in Shanghai. The Marseille-born chef has been based here for the past seven years, first flirting with molecular cuisine at the Pudong Shangri-La before opening his wildly popular modern French bistro, Mr & Mrs Bund, on Shanghai’s historic riverfront. All of that, however, was just a prelude to Ultraviolet, a dream project 15 years in the making.
The new 10-seat restaurant is an indulgent experiment in what Pairet terms “psycho taste.” The university chemistry major believes that our perception of taste can be altered through engaging different senses and emotion triggers as we eat. “Food is ultimately about emotion, and emotion goes beyond taste,” he explains.
We’re not just talking about dimmed lights and mood music—every dish in Pairet’s 20-course avant-garde set menu is presented with its own taste-tailored choreography of sounds, scents, video projections, and temperatures.
To create the desired effects, Ultraviolet’s single-table dining room is fitted out with an arsenal of technology: 360-degree wall projectors, a multichannel surround-sound system, dry scent diffusers, infrared cameras, plus one of the world’s most advanced kitchens and an on-site R&D operation. The setup allows the otherwise featureless room to transform in seconds from a Gothic church to a sun-dappled pasture.