Multisensory Dining: 10 Eateries With a Twist

By Lindsay Silberman  |  October 28, 2013

It took chef Paul Pairet 15 years to execute his concept for Ultraviolet, the extravagant multisensory restaurant in Shanghai that has only 10 chairs. When Ultraviolet officially opened last year, diners finally understood what took so long - the restaurant required 29.5 tons of steel, 45 doors, 8.6 miles of cables and 4,274 pieces of silverware and is outfitted with 56 speakers, 7 projectors and 10 computer screens. Guests partake in an avant-garde 20-course meal, accompanied by sight, sound, touch, smell and most importantly: taste.

To call the restaurant an “immersive experience” would be an understatement. Of course, the immersive concept itself isn’t new, but Pairet’s take on it has spurred conversation about how other restaurants around the world interpret multisensory dining. Here are 10 of the most innovative and interesting eateries that play on the other senses (in addition to taste).

  • El Celler de Can Roca, Catalonia, Spain

    At El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia, Spain, the chefs experiment with classic fragrances as food inspiration - in the past, desserts have become the edible equivalent of Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb or Calvin Klein’s Eternity. A famed dish on the seven-course tasting menu is Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and sherry-vinegar meringue - it has a motor concealed in the dough, causing the ice cream to "dance.”

  • The Fat Duck, Bray, England

    The famed restaurant serves up an inventive tasting menu playing to five senses. One course, for example, named "Sound of the Sea", features an oyster, a clam, a mussel and seaweed, with sand made of tapioca. The dish is served in a conch shell that conceals an iPod playing the sounds of waves crashing while guests indulge.

  • Eat, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

    Silence is golden at Eat, the Brooklyn restaurant that prohibits speaking during its Sunday night "silent dinners." Guests are served a four-course meal in complete silence. The “meditative experience” inspired of the restaurant was inspired by chef Nicholas Nauman’s time spent at a Buddhist monastery in India. He claims the silent-dining experience shifts the focus onto taste, smell and sound - like that of forks and dishes clanging and chefs cooking in the kitchen.

  • Opaque, Los Angeles, CA

    Without the ability to see the food, diners are encouraged to focus on heightening their senses other than sight at this “dining in the dark” concept restaurant. To do so, the chef offers dishes that play with texture and smell to inspire the palate - and guests often resort to eating with their hands in lieu of struggling with utensils.

  • Supperclub, San Francisco, CA

    San Francisco’s Supperclub is a spin-off of the original Supperclub - a hybrid of restaurant, cocktail bar, club, gallery and what they describe as an “experimental free state all rolled into one” - in Amsterdam. Guests dine on all-white beds sans shoes while enjoying avant-garde video performances, tight-rope walkers and a comedic band of clowns. Supperclub now has outposts in Istanbul and Singapore in addition to Amsterdam and San Francisco.

  • Ninja, NYC

    At kitschy theme restaurant Ninja New York, diners are guided to their tables by costumed ninjas through a long, dark tunnel, before crossing over a drawbridge and passing through hidden doorways. The ninjas perform magic tricks and demos for guests, and grate fresh wasabi tableside. Check out our video on Ninja here.

  • Medieval Times, Various locations (NJ, Baltimore, Dallas, Orlando, etc)

    One might argue that Medieval Times pioneered the multisensory dining trend before people even knew what multisensory dining was. There, diners are entertained by knights in battle, while using their hands to dig into a classic “royal feast” of roasted chicken, spare ribs and herb-basted potatoes.

  • The Cave Restaurant, Richland, Missouri

    This cave-turned-restaurant serving up American fare is carved into a limestone bluff in central Missouri. Waterfalls and fountains built within the cave provide calming background noise for guests, in addition to the flowing Gasconade River just 100 ft. below the restaurant.

  • The Viking Yurt, Park City, Utah

    The Viking Yurt - an extravagant adventure-meets-dining experience - was inspired by Norwegian hospitality. Diners are transported 1,000 ft. up a mountain on sleighs attached to Sno Cats. They arrive at a tentlike restaurant with a wood-burning stove, a pianist and dim lighting. Viking Yurt’s rotating prix fixe menu amounts to a 4.5-hour meal, and the dinner concludes with a sleigh ride down the mountain under the stars.

  • Revere Hotel, Reel Chefs, Boston, MA

    At this ongoing series of gourmet dinners hosted by Boston’s Revere hotel, the city’s best chefs prepare a tasting menu inspired by their favorite movies. The dinner takes place at Revere’s in-house theater, and guests are served courses and corresponding cocktails while flicks are being screened. This past August, the film Pulp Fiction was accompanied by a ‘Royale with Cheese’ shortrib/brisket/chuck burger, fried green tomato, carrot ketchup, pickled banana slug peppers and American cheese.