On December 31 at 9 o’ clock sharp In Shanghai my evening seems to be quite well organized!
This avant-garde French cuisine eatery, Mr and Mrs Bund , at the 6th floor of Bund18, by renowned Chef Paul Pairet is the place where I chose to see the year go by before heading to the glamorous Bar Rouge rooftop in the same building , all belonging with Tan Wai Lou restaurant to the prestigious VOL group.
The doors swing open to reveal a lyed back and spacious restaurant since April 8th, 2009 clustered with gourmands and oenophiles, bon vivants and a fancy night crowd ready to party on the adolescent’s 80′ French theme La Boum!
General Manager, Fabien Verdier and long time partner of chef Pairet wearing a tailored blue indigo velvet blazer , a pair of worn-out jeans and a dark gelled ponytail welcomes us warmly offering the most beautiful table for two overlooking the Huangpu River, facing the Pudong, skyline.
Exited I can see my hotel building from here and the lights and sound of the Bund night scene and boats over the river looking just like magic on a dream . Would never imagine that the best is yet to come. Despite the busy evening, Fabien chats with us.
He explains that Mr & Mrs Bund, trains it’s focus on something more difficult than either conceptual fine dining or landmark nightspots: simplicity. Fabien is totally right, although I over dressed for the occasion, I notice that the restaurant is more relaxed than its heritage location may suggest, and despite the prime Bund address, it errs on the side of understated chic, not show-off ostentatious.
I read somewhere that the Chinese government for the first 10 years only allowed the French chef to open establishments in mainland and bingo, Paul Pairet turned his exacting talent to popular food – French at its very core, international around the edges –served family-style, in a manner recast for the modern table.
An enthused waiter hands us the menu while Fabien offering us wonderful drinks excuses himself promising to come back very soon.
The menu is anchored on a concept the chef calls – somewhat cryptically – “declension”. There’s no direct translation, though perhaps ‘thematic variation’ comes close. Think of it as culinary riffing preparation: there’s turbot essential, turbot grenobloise, turbot bearnaise, or turbot truffle new meuniere. This is only if we talk turbots!
The waiter adds ” Per chance you’d fancy some frites to mop up the extra truffles, some mashed potatoes over which to douse the extra grenobloise sauce, or some green beans swimming in meuniere sauce.” Everything’s fair game.
Am I confused with the dish ” ? I don’t eat meat , shellfish nor pork , I am what’s called Kosher – Will this be a problem?” I ask the waiter a bit troubled
” Not quite! – Fabien Verdier comes back almost happy to have personally grabbed the challenge! – ” Mr and Mrs Bund is about consensual cuisine , and, as such, its menu indulges guests’ flights of fancies and caters to their whims. Because when a specific craving hits, substitutes and ‘close-enoughs’ are just not good enough” he says refilling our flutes with champagne.
Chef Paul Pairet , that you will meet personally next week at the site of his latest creation, Ultraviolet, always says “Mr & Mrs Bund is a restaurant where the diner, leads, through what they know, through their own choices, each diner will, out of all the menu ‘proposals ’ that we have, find something that suits him or her exactly.
” Now let’s not worry about anything else as you must enjoy the evening. Let’s get you something to eat, I will personally create a menu hat will suit you perfectly and I give you my word you will find it a true delight. We got a few surprises in the oven for you so give us a few minutes.” The surprises arrive one after the other and honestly all blew not only my palate, but my mind too.
Starting from a canned tuna mousse with ginger , lemongrass and soy dressing as an appetizer that I have ordered twice with the most delicious home made thin bread crackers , the menu is a s follows: Ah I forgot to mention, everything must be shared, due to the French traditional family eatery philosophy and perfectly aligned with the Chinese.
To start we are served an in-house smoked salmon seasoned on the table, with Giant Asparagus from the Yunnan province on a Bernaise sauce ( traditional French warm Tarragon-butter dressing) arugula salad mushroom truffle with Paris mushrooms and soy sauce and slices of Parmigiano cheese, spinach garlic Asiate with garlic butter .sesame oil ad soy, a truffle burnt soup toasted bread, absolutely delicious, a Black Cod fish ” Hong Kong ” simmered in a heat proof bag with a Cantonese Sauce, and a steamed Sea Bass Truffle vierge wit Truffle oil, Black Olives, tomatoes and Basil vierge Infusion.
The atmosphere is warming up, the music a little louder, Fabien is inviting his guests to come to the dance floor set in the center of the room nearby the large terrace everyone will head to once the firework will take place, that is if they will take place. In China the government will never let you know in advance.
The only thing I care for at this point is the dessert. One bitter smooth Chocolate Truffle Tartelette topped with a Toffee Sorbet and to my surprise the best lemon tart I have ever tasted in life with I absolutely must share, consists of a confit lemon, filled with Lemon Sorbet , Lemon Curd , Vanilla Chantilly ( do you believe it?) served with a stick of Sable! You must taste to believe it.
The fireworks did not take place at the majestic and historical buildings on West nor on the East bank of the Huangpu River,where crowd sof thousands had been waiting patiently since late afternoon. The party at the terrace of Mr and Mrs Bund just below Bar Rouge, went on until 4 AM with a constant flow of new comers from China, Europe and Asia Pacific.
A week later , we have just parked Paul Pairet Jeep in the atrium of an estimated 3.000.000 us dollars investment for an exciting, ground- breaking dining concept, a project that has been conceived in the daring mind of this French chef for over ten years and has finally taken root in Shanghai , the multi-sensory enchantment venue, called Ultraviolet.
We enter a dark room with one single rectangular table where Pairet ‘s team has been working on this world-exclusive, 10-seat “theater” restaurant, where all lights, sounds, smell and atmosphere are tailored and choreographed to enhance and interact with each course, and to launch it sometime in 2012.
” It’s a 35 course average “- I hear from my back I assume Paul Pairet, dressed with a military shirt, pants hat and an unshaved bear talking nervously and looking down at the floor first and at waves projected by the light and sound in the walls.
A large tree trunk found by Pairet himself is suddenly unveiled in a small room in front of the main dining room where we are sitting wit Fabien and a few sound and light technicians , and when the light comes brighter at last, like an experienced actor Paul introduces himself with a quick smile but complaining that I have interrupted his thoughts with the avalanche of questions I have asked in relation to the Ultraviloet.
I gaze at him silent now, I learn that guests will have the opportunity to dine in the kitchen, in an atrium or at the very same table we are sitting now.
The sound will have the Beetles and Rolling Stones incorporated with a reinvented Fish and Chips , other combinations will follow through as a factor of constant surprise.
Would I want to bring that to Brazil? Maybe.
I wander what Avant -Garde Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemayer would say if I asked his opinion.
” My dear let the Frenchman come in, as he is one of ours! ”
The Restaurant: Mr and Mrs Bund, Paul Pairet a modern French eatery in cosmopolitan Shanghai Address: 6/F, Bund 18, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, Shanghai, People Republic of China
Photos Ultravilolet courtesy Scott Wright Limelight Studio
The Chef’s Website: Paul Pairet
The other restaurant : Ultraviolet