Being someone who ‘lives to eat’ and not the other way around, anxiety is usually not something I experience prior to a meal. However, standing in the lounge of O.Noir, a restaurant in Toronto where you eat in complete darkness, I was mildly stressed and wondered what my virgin eating in the dark experience would be like.
The brains behind the Canadian chain of O.Noir hoped that people could experience the life of a visually impaired person. As a result, the dining in the dark trend finally hit Montreal and Toronto. The 85-seat dining room is waited on by a team of visually impaired servers recruited by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Guests first are welcomed into a lit lounge/bar where a host hands you a very concise 3-course menu with dessert being optional. Once the orders have been confirmed, guests are then introduced to their sunglasses-clad visually impaired server. In single-file and with your left arm outstretched to the left shoulder of the person in front of you, diners are marched into a room completely shrouded in darkness. Mobile devices and reflective watches are asked to be put away.
As I fumble in the dark to feel for my chair and mistakenly step on my neighbour, I apologize and am glad he can’t see me.
What happens when you need to go to the bathroom? How will I know where I’m sitting? Will anyone talk in the dining room? What will my food even look like…but then again, does that even matter? The unknown is just nerve wracking.
Dining in the dark is definitely challenging. Though the table is set like any other table you’ve sat at, guiding your hand to the familiar cutlery, holding your wine glass trusting that you won’t spill its contents and staining your beautiful dress, wildly stabbing your fork in your food, learning to use your hands to guide your food into your mouth, and buttering your bread without spreading it all over your hand – is all actually very difficult when you can’t see. Don’t even get me started with my attempt to feed my date!
Some interesting thoughts that came to mind during dinner:
-with your sight taken away, you find yourself over compensating by speaking louder
-at first, your eyes are flicking uncontrollably in a drastic attempt to focus on something
-dining in the dark removes all distractions and just focuses on good conversation
-no table manners needed since no one can see you
-there’s no need to dress up or wear makeup
The experience is a bit odd at first, but as your body finally realizes that your eyes are open and not shut, it becomes easier and things even feel like second-nature.
Now, as for the food…I was extremely disappointed. Unable to dine with my eyes, perhaps my taste buds were more active than usual. It was mediocre. Actually, if it weren’t for the novel experience, I would probably write a bad review.
O.Noir is a novelty more than a Michelin Star kind of restaurant, but the dining experience will definitely be a memorable one.
Grilled octopus salad with roasted peppers, chickpeas and balsamic reduction
Grilled Filet Mignon and daily sauce
Mousse of the day