SHEX Goes Backstage At China’s Most Expensive Restaurant
Disclaimer: I’m not a food reviewer and I typically turn my nose up at haute multi-course cuisine.You’re more likely to find me in a back alley eating cheap local food than visiting 5 star restaurants with golden-flaked oysters. So why then should you read this article? Because Ultraviolet might be one of the very few multi-course restaurants that I’d actually recommend.
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For those who don’t know much about Ultraviolet, the brainchild of French chef Paul Pairet focuses heavily on pleasing all the five senses, not just taste. The team use projectors to put you in a new setting, air diffusers to pump out smells, props you can feel, and sounds from surrounding speakers, all to immerse you in an environment they feel best matches the food you're eating. As a result, your dinner feels more like an interactive play than just a high-end meal. I'd even go as far as to say it's more than just a play, it's a culinary rollercoaster for the senses.
During your culinary excursion, you'll be plunged into a forest while dining on a dish of mushrooms. You'll hear the noises of the forest and your nose will be flooded with a damp, earthy smell. Fast forward to later in the evening and you'll find yourself stood in line at a Southeast Asian-styled street vendor where you'll pick up a plate of black pepper beef in the streets of old school Singapore. I'm reluctant to go into too much detail as I don't want to spoil the experience for you. Just know that each dish is accompanied by a completely different scene, smell, sound and experience, all of which have been agonisingly selected in order to better enhance the food in front of you.
Going backstage gave us an interesting perspective into both sides of the performance. Before the guests arrived for dinner we tried a few of the courses in the dining room with the full sensory experience. During the guest's dinner we were in the kitchen, watching Paul Pairet and his team prepare the food and eating amongst the hustle and bustle of the dinner service. The food itself is experimental and it's clear an extraordinary amount of culinary research went into perfecting every morsel on the plate in front of you. Some dishes were definitely more memorable and interesting than others, but saying that, the whole meal works like a play, with each course flowing into the next. While I personally didn't rank every dish as mind blowing, you're going for the whole experience, not the individual scene.
Take the cola duck for example, ultimately I'm not sure where I stand with this dish. Sure I love crispy duck skin, but coca cola? Why? And this dish took almost 10 years for Pairet & Co to perfect... Having said that the scene around as you take your bite of cola skin is fun and lively and fits perfectly with the third act's unique take on classic Asian dishes. If I was given the dish without the cinematics I might not be as forgiving, but would I remove the course? Not at all, taking it out would leave the experience lacking.
After the meal, diners get the opportunity to go backstage into the kitchen to meet Paul Pairet and the UV team. While here you can chat with chefs, ask questions, and learn more about whichever course left the biggest impression.
Ultraviolet has an unrivalled atmosphere that you just won’t find anywhere else. I’d liken it to being somewhat similar to the feeling most people get when visiting Disneyland. You feel like there's something special there that's more than anything you'd get at a normal high-end eatery. How many restaurants can claim they're able to keep diners off their phones for a whole evening? At Ultraviolet there's no time for scrolling through your WeChat moments, there's just too much going on.
Is it worth the high price tag? What you’re paying for is a unique experience that you won’t be able to get anywhere else. If you have to save up all your pennies for a year just to afford it, then maybe it’s not for you. But if you can justify spending this much on creating an unforgettable memory, then this is the place to do just that.