Tucked away in an undisclosed location in Shanghai lies one of the most innovative, Michelin 3-star restaurants in the world. Founded in 2012, the intimate restaurant Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet only serves 10 diners at a time and is designed to give food enthusiasts the most avant-garde dining experience of their life. It offers a fully immersive culinary journey in a high-tech private dining room, where the ambiance is highlighted by multi-sensory technology and playful twists. For this dinner, prepare for your preconceived ideas of taste to be challenged as you enter a whole new world of imagination.
Ultraviolet pioneered the term “Psycho Taste,” which embodies the philosophy that one’s relationship with food goes beyond what you put in your mouth and includes personal perception and emotions. The technology incorporated into the dinner is designed to enhance your experience and provide context for the food.
A Multi-Sensory Dining Experience
Arrive early at Mr and Mrs Bund restaurant, your designated departure point, for your first aperitif before being whisked away to a secret location in Shanghai. Enter the restaurant’s unmarked entrance to discover a single-lit dining table for 10, surrounded by bare white walls. Everything is not what it seems in Ultraviolet though, as you’ll soon discover that the cozy dining area is designed as a blank space for a reason. Hidden away, the restaurant’s ambiance has been meticulously planned out and created to heighten your senses with video-screen walls, a surround sound system, unique lighting and dry scent diffusers.
Marvel as the room transforms over dinner with an over-the-top gastronomic and theatrical production, where you’ll experience anything from a rainy day in London and Beatles-themed decor to nostalgic sounds of classic Nintendo. With unique light, sounds and scents, the atmosphere engages your senses in order to trigger emotion. Imagine being drawn into an enchanted forest in autumn while dining on Truffle Burnt Soup Bread, then cut into Sashimi Steak Frites and get transported to a fish market in Tokyo.
What’s on the Menu?
You’ll be served 20 unique courses, each featuring a complex dish enhanced with distinct sights and smells for a taste-tailored atmosphere. There are rotating European-style set menus, called ‘UVA’, ‘UVB’ and ‘UVC’, which each pair Michelin-quality cuisine with extraordinary culinary experiences. For example, the “Tomato Mozza and Again” is a duo of dishes that look the same, but each provides a completely different taste and flavor profile. Composed of sweet and savory surprise ingredients, you’ll be taken aback as what appears to be olive oil turns out to be vanilla oil.
You need to be fully present for this 5-star dining experience, as you’ll be presented with an artful array of creations accompanied by whimsical sensory inclusions. As you tuck into fresh oysters with caviar, you’ll hear the sounds of seagulls and waves crashing and feel a waft of sea breeze, then graze on fish, rice and fennel in a Tupperware-style container and feel nostalgia for the good old days as the scent of freshly cut grass takes over. The “Micro Fish and Chips” course is a beloved favorite, where the jovial sound of the song ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ by the Beatles fills the room and visuals of the Union Jack covers the walls. Afterward, a foie gras cigarette challenges your visual expectations and taste buds.
Your first challenge is getting your foot in the door, as it’s nearly impossible to score a reservation at Ultraviolet. Would-be patrons have to use the restaurant’s online booking system each night at midnight (Shanghai time) for a chance to snag a seat at the next available slot 90 days away. This doesn’t seem too challenging until you learn the table’s at Ultraviolet typically sell out within seconds of being released.
The price to experience this high-concept dining? Nearly 4000 RMB, which is around $580. (Extra if you add the upgraded drink pairings or visit on a ‘special event’ day.) However, adding to its value is Ultraviolet’s personalized service, boasting the world’s record ratio of employees per guest with 2.5 staff members to each patron.
An Unconventional Chef
Ultraviolet is the brainchild of renowned French chef Paul Pairet, who has been known for his innovative techniques and ideas his entire career. He currently owns three top-rated restaurants in Shanghai, including the modern French bistro Mr & Mrs Bund and global favorite Chop Chop Club. He had the idea of Ultraviolet in 1996, but with technological and budget constraints, he wasn’t able to realize his dream until 2012. Born in France, Paul Pairet has worked across the globe in Paris, Istanbul and Hong Kong. He is now settled in Shanghai and currently recognized as one of China’s most creative chefs.
Defining luxury in a whole new way, Ultraviolet offers an exclusive dining experience that is much more than just the food on your plate. Although the cuisine alone is enough to visit, it’s more about being given a chance to surrender all control and experience a surreal evening of heightened senses. The dishes served at Ultraviolet are unmistakably innovative, but it’s the memorable culinary adventure you embark on that is beyond compare. ■