Shanghai’s most exclusive restaurant has no sweeping views, no tony address, and no celebrity chef in the kitchen. But for chef Paul Pairet, Ultraviolet is a dream come true, 15 years in the making.
Pairet helmed the kitchen at the Four-Star Pudong Shangri-La’s Jade on 36 restaurant before going on to open the hipster-chic modern French eatery Mr & Mrs Bund, so he’s neither slouch nor stranger to acclaim. All the while, though, Pairet has wanted to introduce the concept of “sensory enhanced dining.” After nearly three years of countless setbacks (such as trying to find a location whose walls could act as cinema screens, in addition to construction delays), Shanghai’s most unique restaurant — and, with a set price of ¥2,500 per person (approximately $405 USD), perhaps its most expensive — opened its unmarked doors last May. And while some skeptics may have thought the eccentric eatery would only have a short run, the kitchen is thriving well into its first anniversary.
The dining room is just one table for 10; there’s but one seating per night and, as of this writing, a waiting list of more than two months in length. Pairet chooses to kick off each dinner with the opening theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey, fitting for the journey on which diners are about to embark.
Ultraviolet is a literal feast for the senses. Each of the 20 courses is paired with a corresponding drink such as mint tea or chardonnay (which are all included in the price of the meal), a visual, a scent and sound. The opening course, “Ostie,” is a wasabi and apple juice sorbet that’s frozen and then cut into the shape of an ostie (a communion wafer). As the dish is served, the air is filled with “Church,” a customized scent by perfumer Mane, and diners are surrounded by a visual of candles and swinging church bells. To accompany the visual and scent portions, guests listen to the “Hells Bells” soundtrack — by AC/DC, of course — playing in the background.
“Hibernatus Gummies” is served to the tune of the Super Mario Bros.’ theme song. The beautifully plated dish is a colorful concoction of Evian, lapsang souchong syrup, Coke and a gummy bear; it’s paired with “Evian-Gummies,” in which the bear flavor of your choosing is dropped into the water. The complementary visual is among the most interactive of the meal; a 360-degree projection shows each diner’s chosen gummy chasing the others around the room. With the dining area as Pairet’s blank canvas, the room comes alive with each course. One minute you’re in an ethereal forest and the next you’re surrounded by giant carrots.
Although Ultraviolet’s location is a secret, making reservations is not. Just visit the restaurant’s bookings page and make a ¥1,000 deposit (approximately $163 USD) via credit card or bank transfer. And then, each evening at 7 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday, a mini bus will take tittering gourmands from Mr & Mrs Bund to Ultraviolet to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Dinner runs from approximately 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., then it’s back on the bus to make the 20-minute drive back to Mr & Mrs Bund — with each diner filled with great food and even better stories to share.
Photos Courtesy of Scott Wright and Limelight Studio