Shanghai eatery pairs food, wine, light, sound

Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:07am EDT
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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Dinner at the Shanghai restaurant "Ultraviolet" starts at 7:30 p.m., after the guests have been driven to the windowless venue from another meeting spot by two vans.

Once they're seated, giant projections of red brick walls appear and start to shift upwards quickly, creating the illusion that the entire room is sinking. This is followed by the sound of cracking stone, a starry sky, lit purple candles, and the ringing of a church bell.

Only then do waiters appear to serve the appetizer: a frozen wasabi-flavored apple juice ball.

Housed in a former warehouse in central Shanghai, the restaurant, the brainchild of French-born Paul Pairet, serves a 22-course banquet that aims to stimulate all five senses to just ten guests a night.

"I want a single table that I can master. Once you control every element, from time, food to atmosphere, you make your own opera," said Pairet, who runs another high-ranked eatery in China's commercial hub. "Food is the lead."

Each course is served with a tailored set of visuals, sound and smell. Guests enjoy steamed lobsters as images of crashing waves are projected onto the walls, the refreshing smell of ocean sprayed from the diffusers and the sound of waves played through the speakers.

The restaurant, which opened in May, is a long-term dream for Pairet, who at the age of 18 decided to make a business out of one or the other of his hobbies, photography or cooking.

The former science student was fascinated by what he saw in his first cooking class in the southwestern city of Toulouse. A teacher showed them three glasses of water, each with sliced or whole carrots inside - and began to explain the phenomenon of diffusion and other biochemical reactions with cooking.

"That was very impressive, especially to people with scientific background," said Pairet, sipping an espresso. "To cook, I need to understand what I am doing."   Continued...

A chef works at the kitchen of Ultraviolet restaurant in Shanghai June 23, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria