01-03 The 10-seat restaurant combines mind-bending cuisine with cutting-edge design, including computerised RGB lights, LED floor strips, pin projectors, UV bulbs, HD wall and table projectors, dry scent diffusers, tracking shape recognition, infrared cameras, multi-channel surround sound system, laser speakers, and a temperature air turbine (images by Scott Wright of Limelight Studio); 04 For French-born, Shanghai-based chef Paul Pairet, Ultraviolet is the result of a 15-year dream, and the embodiment of his devotion to the ‘psycho taste’ (portrait by Scott Wright of Limelight Studio); 05 Wine retail display; 06 The owners consider the store’s most important design feature to be its heart and bottle logo; 07 Design products in the front window has helped bring in an audience that may have walked by; 08 Touch screen tables allow guests to explore wine profiles, reviews and characteristics at their own leisure; 09 The trio behind Amo Eno, Charles Banks, Brook and Andrew Bradbury
Two sets of China-based entrepreneurs have embraced technology as the future of wining and dining, with rather different but equally dramatic results.
Born and trained in France, Paul Pairet first came to notice in 1998 at Paris’ Cafe Mosaic, before landing in Shanghai in 2005 to open Jade on 36 at the Pudong Shangri-La hotel.
The smells, textures, aromas and flavours of his travels have inspired and rooted his very distinctive style of cuisine, and in just three short years, Jade on 36 has come to stand far apart from the hotel restaurant crowd, staking out an international reputation for sophisticated, avant-garde cuisine, and becoming a destination in itself.
In 2008, Pairet left Jade on 36 to join the VOL Group at the heritage Bund 18 building, before embarking on his most challenging creation to date, a 10-seat restaurant with a secret location that presents cuisine attached to raw emotion.
“Ultraviolet is the result of a 15-year dream,” says Pairet. “The project crystallises what I believe in the most: the attempt to unite food by staging the otherwise random ‘atmosphere’ in order to enhance the food served and the memory of it.”
Having arrived at the restaurant’s secret location following a car ride across town, guests are led to a single table of 10 seats, where they are served a 20-course “avant-garde” set menu. The dinner that subsequently unfolds has been described as a sensory play choreographed by Chef Pairet and the Ultraviolet team.
Food is obviously the main reason to experience Ultraviolet, and taste its primary focus, but Pairet says that to assume food is only about taste is naive. “Food is ultimately about emotion,” he says, “and emotion goes beyond taste. Emotion is influenced by your mood, your memories, your surroundings, your expectations, the people sitting next to you, your chair, your subconscious, the lighting, the memory of music, the realism of a sound, a view, a particular scent, the so-called atmosphere, and all external parametres building up your pre-conceived idea of what you are going to taste.” The chef has a label for this: the “psycho taste.”
According to Pairet, the psycho taste is everything about the taste but the taste. It is the expectation and the memory, the before and the after, the mind over the palate. It is all the factors that influence our perception of taste. For instance, see a tomato, and your mind will call upon its memory to tell you its taste. Smell bread baking, and you can taste the finished loaf. Pairet says we all “psycho taste” before we taste, which is why he is taking control over all influencing factors.
So how will the design of Ultraviolet affect our psycho taste? “Inside there are a table, 10 chairs and white walls. No décor, no artefacts, no paintings, no views,” says Pairet. However, behind the pristine surface lies a wealth of cutting edge technology, including computerised RGB lights, LED floor strips, pin projectors, UV bulbs, HD wall and table projectors, dry scent diffusers, tracking shape recognition, infrared cameras, multi-channel surround sound system, laser speakers, and a temperature air turbine. All this sensory technology is concealed within the ceiling and walls, and controlled remotely from a “techno-room.”
The numbers involved in the creation of his vision are staggering: 29.5 tonnes of steel, almost 14km of cables and wires, 32 air-conditioning machines, 131 power sockets, 27 smoke detectors, 45 doors (eight automatic), 10 computer screens, 56 speakers, 12 CCTV cameras, and more than 4,000 pieces of tableware.
It is undoubtedly one of the most technologicallyadvanced kitchens in Asia, if not the world. Pairet jokingly adds a few more statistics of his own. “Close to 15,000 emails sent, up to 50,000 cigarettes consumed, 8,000 double espressos, a bowl of tears, 10 bowls of rage, US$2.5 million invested, three years of work and counting, and more than one year’s delay.” All this work for a 10-seat restaurant.
Considering the expense and time, why only 10? “Because the nature of the project is about creating the best possible experience. It is difficult to make food at the highest level for more than 10 people at one time, so that’s why 10 is the perfect number: creating an atmosphere that is convivial yet not intimate.” uvbypp.cc
New Hong Kong wine store Amo Eno combines wine, design and cutting edge technology. According to co-founder Brook Bradbury, the intention is to elevate the wine-buying experience from “the level of dusty crates and cardboard boxes, to a sleek, modern environment where the customer feels empowered to explore.”
Amo comes from the Latin word for love, amor, while Eno from the Greek for wine, oeno, combining to mean “Love Wine.” The logo represents two bottles crossing to make a heart, a visually literal interpretation of the brand name and concept.
Amo Eno was founded by three serious oenophiles, couple Andrew and Brook Bradbury, and principal Charles Banks. Andrew and Brook previously created wine retailers 55 Wine + Design in Las Vegas and Clo in NYC, which were conceptual predecessors to Amo Eno. “I have a love of design and architecture,” says Brook, who has been sourcing glassware and directing the design on all of their projects for more than a decade, “while Charles is really one of the most influential figures in wine today, having founded brands like Screaming Eagle, and recently the highly acclaimed Sandhi and Leviathan. We all had a vision of the future of wine retail.”
A key factor to the brand is its flexibility. Each component, be it the wine bar area, wine retail display, glassware showcase, or restaurant seating, can be expanded or contracted depending on constraints and context, making an easy fit-out into hotels, high-end malls and shopping areas and even airports and subway terminals.
From a branding standpoint, the owners consider the store’s most important design feature to be its heart and bottle logo. “The idea was a literal representation of Amo Eno,” says Brook. “I was doodling around with ideas, and when I came up with the two bottles crossing to make a heart, I knew that was it.”
From an architectural perspective, there are several key features at play in the store. One is showcasingwine design products in the front window. According to the owners, the designer products have helped bring in a whole new audience that may have walked right by otherwise. “I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people walking by in a fast pace, only to stop dead in their tracks and run over to the display window to check out the unusual products for sale,” says Brook.
Another is their wine racking system. The bottles are displayed horizontally on a cantilevered acrylic panelling system suspended by the necks with collaring brackets. The racks are lit from within and the whole display glows. It’s a stunning and innovative way to display a fairly mundane looking product like a wine bottle.
Of course, technology is integral to the Amo Eno experience, coming in a few main components. First, the innovative enomatic tasting machines allow customers to alternatively “try and try” or “try and buy.” In other words, patrons can choose to enjoy an experience more akin to that of a wine bar, or they can taste many selections with the intent of finding the perfect bottle to take home for dinner.
Second, the proprietary software created by Mindwrack for the touch screen surface tables allow guests to explore wine profiles, reviews and characteristics at their own leisure. The bar tops are fun, educational and interactive for the customers, who can rate their own selections on the table. The intelligent software also allows the customer to create and access their own personal profiles, following selections, likes, dislikes, and allowing for new recommendations suggested by the system, creating an invaluable database. It also ties directly into their point of sale system, allowing for easy inventory control and tracking.
“I think Amo Eno brings a whole new perspective on wine to the Hong Kong market place,” says Brook. “We give people a venue in which they can easily attain information on the wines [available in the shop] through the surface touch screen tables, and then try a taste before they commit to buying an entire bottle. It really takes a lot of the guesswork out of finding something you really love.” amoeno.com
Published in the June/July issue of Surface Asia