Extreme dining in Shanghai: French chef’s twist on haute cuisine

Staff members of Ultraviolet restaurant serve their guests inside the dining room in Shanghai. A van spirits Ultraviolet restaurant’s ten nightly diners to its secret Shanghai location where they enter a minimalist dining room to Wagner’s theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” French chef Paul Pairet immerses guests in a 360-degree parade of sights, sounds and smells tailored to evoke a matching sense of “place” for each dish in one of the most unique — and expensive — dining experiences on the planet. (AFP/Chandan Khanna)
Updated 06 November 2017
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Extreme dining in Shanghai: French chef’s twist on haute cuisine

SHANGHAI: A van spirits ten guests to a secret location in Shanghai, where they enter a non-descript industrial building as Strauss’s theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” fills the air.
Inside is avant-garde restaurant Ultraviolet, the city’s newest three-star Michelin eatery, where adventurous gourmands happily pay up to 6,000 yuan ($900) per head and the waitlist for a seat is three months.
The group dines on 22 courses — each one served in an atmosphere tailored to that dish and created by video and other images projected on the walls, pumped-in aromas, and its own soundtrack.
French chef Paul Pairet, 53, says the aim is to “connect the dots” between the mind and palate by triggering “the right atmosphere, linked to the right plate,” which he believes helps to enhance the flavours of each dish.
Guests take a culinary world tour, while mood music ranges from Claude Debussy to AC/DC: Pairet’s take on fish-and-chips comes in a London rainshower to the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” while lobster is served as footage of ocean waves crashes on the walls and the scent of sea air is blown in.
“You are using all your different senses to feel this experience,” Cheryl Chen, a Shanghai consultant, dining at Ultraviolet, explains.
“It’s multi-dimensional versus others that probably have good food and a good environment, but this is one of a kind,” she adds.

Pairet, who already has two other highly regarded ‘traditional restaurants’ in Shanghai, first made his name as a chef at Cafe Mosaic in Paris in the 1990s before stints in Istanbul, Hong Kong, Sydney and Jakarta.
Ultraviolet was more than two decades in the making, he explains.
Its continued success, five years after it first opened, is testament to Shanghai’s burgeoning food scene — Michelin launched a dedicated guide for the city in 2016 — the only one in mainland China.
It also indicates the growing disposable income and culinary curiosity of Shanghai citizens.
Pairet says consumer interest actually increased after he put up Ultraviolet’s prices to cover costs.
He explains: “When we increased the price of Ultraviolet — we needed to sustain the whole project, there was no other way — after a certain level of price at 6000 RMB, we had an increase of Chinese customers.”


Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

Chawak Bazar Iftar market vendors on a busy Wednesday afternoon. (AN photo)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Dhaka relishes traditional ‘Dhakaia iftar’ in Ramadan

  • While much has changed in Dhaka, its tasty Ramadan dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.
  • The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

DHAKA: “To me it’s like a festival. During Ramadan, all of us friends regularly gather at my house and have the ‘Dhakaia Iftar’ together,” said Abdullah Alamin, 48, a city dweller of old Dhaka.

While much has changed in Dhaka, these tasty dishes have stayed the same in the 400-year old city established by the Mughal dynasty.

“Chawak Bazar Iftar market of old Dhaka has a history of more than 100 years. Many things of the area have changed with the passage of time but the Chawak Bazar Iftar remains unchanged,” said renowned historian Muntasir Mamun, a professor at Dhaka University.

Chawak Bazar became the city center of Dhaka during the Mughal regime in the early-16th century. The iftar bazar is a continuity of the retail market set up since then, Muntasir said.

During Ramadan, people from all over Dhaka get something more to add to their regular iftar menu.

In Chawak Bazar, vendors in makeshift shops offer a variety of iftar items. These include “boro baper polai khai” (only the son of an influential father eats this), shahi jilapi, shahi paratha, beef, chicken, mutton, pigeon, quail roast, keema roll, keema paratha, doi bora, borhani.

The exquisite variety of kebabs attracts food lovers from far and wide, reminding them of the existence of Mughals through different food menus — offering tikka, shutli, jaali, shami, irani and other kinds of kebabs.

Boro baper polai khai is the most popular iftar item among the locals. People from old Dhaka can simply not complete their iftar without having a piece of it. This is an exclusive food of the city made of chicken, minced meat, potatoes, brain, chira, egg, spices and ghee.

“This is a traditional food of old Dhaka. I saw my grandfather enjoying eating boro baper polai khai,” said Hajji Joinal Molla, 79, who has been living in the Lalbag area of old Dhaka for many years.

“We love to treat our special guests with this dish,” Joinal said.

Most of the 200 vendors at the market are second- or third-generation businesses. 

“My 11-year-old son is very fond of shami kebab at Chawak Bazar. Today he has invited some of his friends to our house, which brought me here to this iftar market,” said Shamsuddin Ahmed, 55, a resident of Uttara, new Dhaka.

“These traditional Iftar items have become an integral part of our iftar culture,” Shamsuddin said.