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

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.”


Plague to protein: Israeli firm seeks to put locusts on the menu

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Updated 04 August 2020

Plague to protein: Israeli firm seeks to put locusts on the menu

  • Some goods produced in the Golan Heights face export restrictions, including strict labeling requirements, because most of the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in the area

GOLAN HEIGHTS: From biblical plague to modern-day protein, one Israeli firm wants to make locusts a sustainable food choice in the Holy Land and beyond.
As for whether or not the insects are kosher, the answer is not so simple.
At Hargol Foodtech’s farm in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a rectangular enclosure that once served as a chicken coop is filled with thousands of locusts, a grasshopper species that has a highly destructive swarming phase.
Contained in a series of meticulously stacked, climate-controlled mesh cages, the insects are served wheatgrass through their three-month life-cycle, before being cooled, killed and baked.
Hargol’s chief executive Dror Tamir said that he grew up hearing stories of how locusts destroyed the fields of his kibbutz in the 1950s.
Yet the Yemenite Jews in the area did not view locusts as crop-ruining pests, but as an edible source of nutrients, Tamir recalled.
As an adult, Tamir became a food and nutrition entrepreneur increasingly concerned about the environmental cost of providing the world’s growing population with enough animal protein.
Tamir said he founded Hargol — Hebrew for grasshopper — 6.5 years ago after realizing the insects were the solution.
The company’s goal is to be “the first in the world to grow grasshoppers on a commercial scale, and provide the world with a healthier and more sustainable source of protein.”
Ram Reifen, a professor of human nutrition at Hebrew University, agreed that the planet is facing growing food supply challenges.
With Earth’s population expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, raising livestock to feed the planet will become increasingly unsustainable, given the massive water and land resources required.
“The fear is there will be a scarcity of protein,” Reifen said. Tamir said that unprocessed locusts consist of more than 70 percent protein and contain all amino acids, along with other nutrients.

HIGHLIGHT

At Hargol Foodtech’s farm in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a rectangular enclosure that once served as a chicken coop is filled with thousands of locusts, a grasshopper species that has a highly destructive swarming phase.

“What they do lack is saturated fat and cholesterol,” he said. “They have the good stuff. They don’t have the bad stuff.”
According to his own estimate, around 2.5 billion people — mainly in developing nations — consume insects as part of their regular diet.
And, the “most widely eaten insects in the world are grasshoppers,” Tamir said.
But, he added, “when trying to target North American and European customers, it’s really hard to overcome the ‘yuck’ factor.”
To make their product more palatable to Westerners, Hargol turns locusts into powder, which can be mixed into various foods.
Tamir said they were about to launch sales of locust-enhanced pancake mix and smoothie powders worldwide.
Some goods produced in the Golan Heights face export restrictions, including strict labeling requirements, because most of the international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in the area.