Paul Pairet – the culinary genius behind Ultraviolet, Shanghai’s hottest dining destination

Never before has food been so revered, so playful, so engaging and so inspiring as it is at Ultraviolet. A longtime fan of Paul Pairet and his game-changing helmsmanship at Jade on 36 and most recently Mr. & Mrs. Bund, I couldn’t wait to try Ultraviolet and talk to Chef Paul about his mad new experimental journey with food. In fact, I interviewed Chef Paul about two years ago and he spoke of his intentions for Ultraviolet. Frankly, I had a hard time grasping the idea of food presented together with a complete multi-sensory experience. Could music and imagery catapult the dining experience to extraordinary new levels? After my Ultraviolet dining experience I can resoundingly say, “yes.”

Ultraviolet is best described as a theatrical dining experience. The diners meet in a central location and are then whisked away to an undisclosed address where the four hour dining marathon is to take place. Ultraviolet seats only ten guests per night, but has an astounding 25 staff focused on orchestrating the experience. Each course is presented in a thematic way, with 360 degree projected visuals to match the dish, along with specially chosen music. For some courses, scent even comes into play. For example, a steamed lobster course is presented with a 360 degree visual of waves crashing into rocks and sea brine steam released into the room to create an atmosphere that is truly transporting.

As each of the 22 courses arrive, diners go through a sensory and emotional journey as “host” Fabien Verdier expertly guides the ten lucky diners through the experience. At my table that night, there were both laughter and tears along this culinary journey. I, along with most others, laughed during a whimsical presentation of “Fish & Chips” where the British flag was projected onto the table and the Beatles “Ob La Di La Da” played. A diner next to me got homesick for Europe during one of the courses and was shocked to find herself misty-eyed.

While Ultraviolet has been more than two years in the making, Chef Paul confessed to me, “I have been talking about this place for 15 years.  I had the idea of the concept of  cooking at one’s best’ – if you can completely direct the experience, you can set the stage to fully focus on the food.” Chef Paul proceeds to explain, “in a regular restaurant, you don’t know what song may be playing when your food goes out, or if it sits for a little too long on the pass while waiting to be served. Here, I can perfect the time taken to cook the steak, how long it should rest and then serve it at exactly the right time. This doesn’t even happen in 3 Michelin star restaurants.”

One part mad scientist, another part culinary genius, Chef Paul creates an unforgettable dining experience. Some of his signature dishes are on the menu at Ultraviolet – for example, the foie gras cigarette and the bread meuniere. In fact the bread meuniere has been served in three of his different restaurant venues by Chef Paul, but he believes that at Ultraviolet, the dishes come to life in the way he really intends.

When I ask Chef Paul what might be next after such an amazing achievement, he says he’s working on some ideas, but that he needs to “identify the right location and venue, as that would command and crystalise its own concept.” It’s hard to imagine what might come next after this project that represents the realisation of a long time dream. I, for one, will be watching and eagerly waiting.

Ultraviolet photos courtesy of Scott Wright of Limelight Studio.

About Joanna Hutchins

Joanna Hutchins is a culinary travel blogger based in Shanghai, China.. In 2009, Joanna founded Accidental Epicurean, a culinary travel blog focused on Asia. Joanna is also a contributor to CNNGo, Look East magazine, SE Asia Globe and Two magazine.