April 11, 2012
Dining in the Dark
How much would you pay to sit in the dark for 2 hours? That is the question we had to ask ourselves when we decided to try out the new restaurant, Dans le Noir? with our friends Nate and Ashley.
I had seen variations of this restaurant on TV years back, where the guests eat their entire meal in pitch black having a totally unique and different dining experience. The idea intrigued me, so when I stumbled upon the opening of this restaurant a few months back I knew this was an experience I had to have.
We actually scheduled our reservations months in advance for a February sitting; however, time after time the restaurant kept rescheduling due to permit issues. Finally, on Saturday, March 17th we were able to have our dining in the dark experience.
We arrived at the restaurant, where the entrance and seating area is a dim lit bar. From here we were able to select our dinner options by choosing a category of food, such as vegetarian, meat lovers, chef's special, and fish. That is all the control we had, the rest would be a surprise.
After we selected our meal type we gathered with the group of people we would be sitting near while we dined. They did make sure that you would be seated next to or across from our loved ones, however, the table was long with many people sitting at it. How long? I don 't know. How many people? I don't know because it couldn't see.
Once our group gathered we were greeted by our waitress who was blind. She explained how we were going to be led into the dining area in a line while each person held onto the shoulder of the person in front of them. As we entered the dining area, complete blackness quickly consumed us, this is when I started to freak out. I didn't realize how dark it would be and my heart started to pound and my mind began to race. I felt in a sense claustrophobic by the complete darkness. Never in my life have I been in a situation where there is no light and/or where I did not have the control to make the light appear.
My eyes continuously tried to adjust trying to make out any shape or forms, but failed to do so. At this point I really didn't know if I was going to be able to go through with the experience. I kept repeating "Is anyone else freaking out?!" Only to find that I was the only one having issues with the loss of my sight. Determined to make it through, I closed my eyes hoping to find comfort and surprisingly it helped...a LOT. I kept my eyes closed for about 20 minutes as I tried to talk myself down from having a total freak out session and I succeeded!
As we sat at our table we were able to feel our place setting: plate center, knife at 3 o'clock , fork at 9 o'clock, spoon at 12 o'clock. A pitcher of water was passed down the table as the waitress explained that in order not to spill you had to place one finger in the glass as you pour. Once your finger feels the water you know to stop pouring. Surprisingly, it worked.
As the appetizers arrived the waitress made sure to announce herself and explain everything she was doing as she handed you the dish. I found much comfort in this and made a mental note to myself of how I would act if I ever came in contact with a blind person. Now came the hard part--eating. I never really thought about how hard it would be to eat with a fork without using your fingers. At first I kept poking at where I thought my food was and trying to place the fork in my mouth, only to discover it was empty. I did this several times before I gave up and started pushing the food on my fork with my fingers.
I never realized how eating is such a visual experience for me. I realized that so many times I probably enjoyed a meal a lot more than I should simply by the way it looked. I came to this realization as I ate my appetizer and was totally disgusted because it was vegetables. I thought I liked vegetables, but that night I quickly discovered that is definitely not the case. Perhaps I was jaded by their colors or knowing as I put it in my mouth that it was good for me. I don't know, but I definitely couldn't eat them. I also was frustrated by not being able to pick and chose which vegetable I wanted to eat. Usually I go for the carrots or corn, and stay far away from the string beans or other items I can't identify, but here, I had no such luxury.
The main course and dessert followed suit as we all tried to decipher what we were eating--surprising not a very easy task.
By evenings end I was getting more and more used to not being able to see; however, I never grew comfortable with it. I was very relieved once we were done and were able to leave the pitch black room. When we reentered the dim lit bar, it was no longer dimly lit but rather we had to look downwards towards the floor as our eyes adjusted to the now "bright" lights.
Now that we were able to see each others faces, we felt the need to revisit conversations we spoke about over dinner because in a sense it didn't seem real since we were not able to see each others facial expressions and reactions.
We were also now able to see a menu with pictures of the food we just ate. It looked so elegant and I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I had been able to see it.
However, as they handed us the bill now came the moment of truth, which brings me back to my first question: How much would you pay to sit in the dark for 2 hours? After the experience was all said and done I am not quite sure it was worth the hefty price tag of $60 a person, but I think it is definitely something you gotta do once. I rationalized it a million ways to make me feel better about dropping that kinda of cash, but if I walked away with anything that night it was a new found appreciation and gratitude for my sight, and I guess a lesson in gratitude is priceless.