November 17, 2015

"Billing itself as 'the first restaurant of its kind attempting to unite food with multi-sensorial technologies in order to create a fully immersive dining experience'..."

"... [Ultraviolet] opened in Shanghai, in May of 2012, to tremendous buzz. It is a spectacular-sounding place: 'Mr. Pairet’s play on fish and chips (a single, battered caper berry stuffed with anchovy paste and paired with a Scottish beer),' the Times wrote, 'emerges in a dreary storm with images of raindrops on the walls and the sounds of thunder, before a British flag is illuminated on the table and the Beatles’ "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" begins to play.' The caper berry is one of twenty courses."

From a New Yorker article — "Who’s to Judge?/How the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are chosen" — about the methodological weaknesses of a powerful restaurant rating institution. In the case of Ultraviolet, which is rated #24 in the world:
The restaurant serves dinner five days a week to a single table of ten diners. In eighteen months, then, it has entertained at most thirty-six hundred people. In order to appear on the list at No. 24, Ultraviolet would have to have garnered at least seventy-five votes, meaning that a 50 Best judge would have had to eat there practically one night out of every five.
The "multi-sensorial technology" may sound ridiculous to you, but it means a lot to me. I have almost no sense of smell, and therefore, in real effect, I have almost none of what normal people regard as taste. And here's another article, "Accounting for Taste/How packaging can make food more flavorful," which describes some studies that show how other senses enhance the experience of taste, which is, of course, in your mind:
[Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University] asked people to sample a dark Welsh ale: one sip while listening to a light, tinkling xylophone composition, and the second to the sound of a deep, mellifluous organ. When the second piece of music stopped, the audience had fallen silent.

“Wow,” a girl near me in a vintage houndstooth dress said. I knew this particular trick of Spence’s—I had watched him perform it multiple times—but it still worked on me. With only a change in the background music, the deep-brown beer had gone from creamy and sweet to mouth-dryingly bitter....
Maybe I could regain my experience of a sense of taste and smell if I set up some strategic music and visual "pairings."

(Photo source.)


traditionalguy said...

If your goal is taste, then stick to French chefs. They have pairings that master all sounds.

But if you lack smell and taste, then try aged 1960's music with a side of Dylan lyrics.

John henry said...

With only a change in the background music, the deep-brown beer had gone from creamy and sweet to mouth-dryingly bitter....

Reminds me of the taste testings that UC Davis (the wine school) did back in the 80s(?)

They used opaque, black glasses and asked people who claimed to be wine snobs to identify the type of various wines.

90% of the people could not even tell if it was a white or a red wine.

I go out to dinner with folks who claim to be wine connoisseurs. there is always an elaborate amount of pretense about ordering the wine and then tasting it. Often a lot of pretense about the wine itself. the classier the restaurant, the more pretense involved.

I am always tempted to call "Bullshit" on the whole process. But then I figure, it's a free meal. Keep my mouth shut.

Le Cirque, the one time I went, pegged the meter. I also had to stop at McDonalds on the way home for dinner. the food at Le Cirque was fabulous and looked great but you could have taken all 5 meals at the table and maybe had enough food for a hungry lad like myself.

Nothing pretentious about the bill, though. Over $700 for 5 people.

John Henry

CStanley said...

That is interesting. I had no idea there was such a thing as a "caper berry" and puzzled by the idea of stuffing a caper.

John henry said...

In grad school I took a class in market research. The prof was an account exec at an agency introducing a new beer. They were doing taste tests in bars and he told us two tricks:

Give people 3 glasses of beer, their brand, the new beer and brand X in that order. Very few people can dstinguish beer by taste. Like the wine experiment above.A large percentage will therefore identify the 2nd beer as "their" brand.

You can also fool with the temperature. The colder the beer is, the less taste it has.

the beer being tested was Medalla, a light beer. Its been a very successful product for 30+ years now.

John Henry

Curious George said...

All that matters is my son's brewpub was voted the best new restaurant in Milwaukee

Sebastian said...

So, AA, I'm curious: do you have so little taste that you can't tell the difference between, say, wine and whiskey?

Laslo Spatula said...

This works in much the same way that an orange ball-gag in a woman's mouth makes her sexual experience more immersive.


I am Laslo.

Barry Dauphin said...

Did anyone spot David Brooks there with some lower, upper middle, upper class people who own carpet businesses?

rehajm said...

Billing itself as “the first restaurant of its kind attempting to unite food with multi-sensorial technologies..."

Pavlov's Dog would have to object.

mikee said...

Twenty courses of noise, flashing lights, and single bites of food?

An experience, to be sure, but one I'd not repeat often.

I have had more pleasure than I can describe, experiencing the variations of flavor visit to visit in the BBQ beef ribs over several years at my local BBQ joint. And that did not involve flashing lights.

rhhardin said...

Where is Terry Southern, the Gourmet.

Ann Althouse said...

@John Henry Writing this post, I was just reading Ruth Reichl's review of Le Cirque from 1993:

Food is important, and Mr. Portay is exceptionally talented. But nobody goes to Le Cirque just to eat. People go for the experience of being in a great restaurant. Sometimes they get it; sometimes they don't. It all depends on who they are. Dinner as the Unknown Diner

"Do you have a reservation?"

This is said so challengingly I instantly feel as if I am an intruder who has wandered into the wrong restaurant. But I nod meekly and give my guest's name. And I am sent to wait in the bar.

And there we sit for half an hour, two women drinking glasses of expensive water. Finally we are led to a table in the smoking section, where we had specifically requested not to be seated. Asked if there is, perhaps, another table, the captain merely gestures at the occupied tables and produces a little shrug.

There is no need to ask for the wine list; there it is, perched right next to me on the banquette where the waiters shove the menus. Every few minutes another waiter comes to fling his used menus in my direction. I don't mind, because I am busy with the wine list, but I have only got to page 3 before the captain reappears.

"I need that wine list," he says peremptorily, holding out his hand. I surrender, and it is 20 minutes before it returns. (Women and wine are an uncomfortable mix at Le Cirque; at a subsequent meal the captain insists that he has only half bottles of the Riesling I've just ordered. When I prove that he's mistaken, he glares at me.)

Wilbur said...

I recall in my beer drinking days that beer tasted better when Buck Owens was on the jukebox. Or Please Please Me by the Fab 4. Inexplicable.

But I believe the old saw that after the after the first beer, they're all about the same.

I used to enjoy an inexpensive beer from Louisville named Falls City. Had a peculiar but pleasant aftertaste.

William said...

I wonder if the lack of a sense of smell might not be a blessing so far as losing weight goes. I know of two bakeries in my neighborhood who spew their exhaust fumes onto the street. Try walking past a bakery alive with the smell of fresh baked cookies. It can't be done. I'm sure most appetite stimulants enter through the nose. It must be easier to control your weight without such stimulants. Instead of gastric band surgery they should try olfactory suppression.

John Henry said...

Anthony Bourdain recently had a segment with some famous chef where they visited a Waffle House. You may have Culvers in Wisconsin but until you get some Waffle Houses, you are a second class state, food wise.

Bourdain and the chef, after tasting the bill of fare, both agreed that the food was better than The French Laundry, supposedly the best restaurant in the US.

Never eaten at The French Laundry but I love Waffle House and agree that it is far better than Le Cirque, at least foodwise. Far better coffee than any of the coffee flavored beverages that Starbucks sells.

My only gripe is that if you are alone, they will not let you sit at a booth. I was once on the road and stopped at about 2AM. Nobody there when I came in, nobody there when I left. I tried to sit in a booth and the waitress made me sit at the counter.

It is not because she was lazy. WH booths abut the counter so she doesn't have to come out to serve me. Just policy.

I could really go for some hash browns right now. Double order, smothered and covered. 4 eggs over easy on top and a side of raisin bread toast.

Top that, Cirque, El Bulli, French Laundry, Four Seasons and all you other pretentious foodie havens.

John Henry

prairie wind said...

How large is a caper berry?

Ann Althouse said...

"I wonder if the lack of a sense of smell might not be a blessing so far as losing weight goes."

Everyone asks that. I'm sure they could come up with a drug or surgery to destroy your sense of smell. Would people take that treatment? They do that absurd abdominal surgery.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the answer is no. It doesn't help. You find your way to foods that are enjoyable without much flavor or that have the components of flavor that work on the taste buds (sweet, salty, etc.). The temperature and texture become predominantly important. Things like mashed potatoes, french fries, ice cream, cheese on good bread, etc. etc., work quite well.

It might help you become a vegetarian. And by vegetarian, I mean no meat. Imagine bacon with no smell.

Ann Althouse said...

"How large is a caper berry?"

Per the Wikipedia article linked under the photograph: "Capers are categorized and sold by their size, defined as follows, with the smallest sizes being the most desirable: non-pareil (up to 7 mm), surfines (7–8 mm), capucines (8–9 mm), capotes (9–11 mm), fines (11–13 mm), and grusas (14+ mm)."

CStanley said...

No, caper berries are not the same as capers. Capers are too small and they are solid, so they can't be stuffed.

CStanley said...

The capers are the flower buds while caper berries are the fruit, per that Wikipedia article

Laslo Spatula said...

Has anyone ever studied the connection between Anosmia and Advanced Cunnilingus Technique?

Seems like the Venn Diagram would almost be unnecessary.

I am Laslo.

Nichevo said...

Althouse, is there anything "special" about you that isn't a weakness, a failure, a flaw? Will you show it to us some day?

Anonymous said...

Huh. Only famous people with anosmia that I was aware of were Wordsworth and Leigh Hunt.

A little Googling just now turned up Bill Pullman and Jason Sudeikis.