On a cold January night, Samir and I were snuggled up on our couch in a warm throw, watching a movie on Netflix after dinner (yeah we are one of those couples!). Half way into the movie, I crawl inside the throw. My husband was a bit perturbed and fully hopeful for “something exciting”. Quick enough to not let his expectations blow up (ahem), I said “Don’t get excited, I am just practising for the dinner next week for my birthday.
Before you guys start to assume the kind of dinner places we frequent, let me take you all from the dark and share my “dine in the dark” experience.
Nestled in Farrington, Dans Le Noir restaurant is quite aptly named, for when translated it means “in the dark”. The concept of this place (which by now you must have guessed) is eating your dinner in pitch darkness coupled with surprise menus. They have 4 surprise menus you can choose from– Exotic, Fish, Meat and Vegetarian and once you decide the theme, and you won’t know what you are being served until after the dinner when you are handed over the menu. Unlike regular restaurants where you tell them what you would like to have for dinner, here you have to specify what you don’t want to have (type of meat you don’t want to have, dietary restriction etc)
Why you would want to eat in dark and subject yourself to this, you ask. Well for starters, we thought it would be a unique dining experience, something that we haven’t done before and should be exciting (or so I thought (part1)!)
Once inside this unassuming restaurant, we were greeted by dim red lit reception, a smiling manager and bunch of curious diners who were waiting for their table. As expected the manager asked us about our preferences and we chose the exotic menu (hoping for something of the likes of ostrich, crocodile et al ) and a safe meat menu (just in case the exotic menu is too much to handle). After communicating our choices, we were asked to keep our belongings including our cell phones and even watches in the locker (I see, they are leaving no stones unturned to ensure there is complete darkness, nice!)
After waiting for a few minutes, the manager called out our names and us along with the other couple walked towards a thick curtain that separated the reception from the restaurant. Once we passed that curtain, we were expecting nothing would meet our eye but instead, we saw a man waiting for us near the curtain. Gosh one more curtain, push me in the dark already, said my restless mind. The man was introduced to us as Fabio and told us that he would be our waiter for tonight. Fabio politely asked us to form a queue and place our right hand on each other’s shoulder and follow him to the dark (of course he did not say that I am just building the scene 😉 )
Fabio then led us to a room where my brain was quick enough to register that there are loads of people around but my eyes did not quite agree. We were lead to a common table and ushered to our seats respectively. My brain and other senses told me that it was a long sharing table and there are people sitting on both the sides. With my eyes were in complete denial to the messages that my brain was sending, I started feeling uneasy until I heard a familiar voice – Tahseen you Ok? I was comforted to hear Samir’s voice and the fact was he was seated opposite me. I tried to put a brave face and kept telling myself it is OK and there’s nothing to worry. But to be honest, 5 mins in and all I was thinking was to get the hell out of there as it was quite unsettling. My thoughts were interrupted by Fabio’s calm voice who served us water in the tumbler kept next to the plate and placed the bottle of water on the table.
After I calmed my mind down and assured it will get over before I know it, I sensed that my brain was more receptive to the surroundings – distant laughter of a group of people, conversations going on either side of me. I started talking to Samir and we exchanged our thoughts on the place. Soon Fabio announced that the starters had arrived and with immense precision, he served our dishes. Although we did have the option of using fork and knife and we did give it a try but it was futile. We felt the food with our bare hands and chewed the first morsel. Though my taste buds were on an overdrive, my mind couldn’t quite match the taste with its stored database, that’s when I knew it was something I haven’t eaten before (or so I thought (part 2)). What could it be? It is chewy and is a bit salty, what could it be? Hmmm, the sauce is nice but I don’t know what exactly it is. Nevertheless, we finished the starter.
Oh god, there are 2 more courses to go, can I leave already! While I was busy deciding if I should stay and go through this experience, the couple who were sitting next to us had already left! Now that really panicked me and I kept telling Samir to leave as well. Samir calmed me down and asked me to close my eyes if that helped, and I am glad it did. I tricked my mind into thinking that I can’t see anything because my eyes are shut. I was relieved that it worked but at the same time, I thought how gullible my brain is !lol!
Then the dinner arrived and we both were engrossed in finding out what our dishes are. We soon realised that our plate had 3 sections with mysterious dishes waiting to be devoured. Of all the food on our plate, the only 2 things that I could recognize was the potato mash and beans. I wouldn’t go to the extent of saying that the food was smashing because most of the time went in playing the guess game. Also though we had an option of using knifes and fork, we couldn’t use them for obvious reasons and used our hands instead (which we are pro at anyway. I did hear our neighbours crib!)
After finishing the dessert (which was quite easy to guess), I did not waste any second to call Fabio and ask him to escort us out. For me 45 mins to an hour seemed like forever, I wanted to return to normalcy. Fabio fulfilled our request and led us out the same way he got us in. As the light outside was dim, coming out from pitch darkness wasn’t as harsh as I expected it to be and surprisingly the transition was seamless (gosh I sound like an IT consultant saying that!)
When we came out Samir had loads of questions to ask Fabio such as how was he so efficiently serving everyone in the dark? Did the glasses that he was wearing have a night vision. Fabio patiently listened to all the questions and said that he did not have night vision glasses and that’s how it is. Samir was in denial, for there could be no way that the server not only attended to the requests of the diners and served them their order but immaculately reached out to their glasses on the table to pour water without spilling or breaking. Fabio just smiled and said “We are used to it, and this is our world”
P.s – All waiters in the restaurants are blind.
P.P.s – Curious to find out what we had? Once we were back at the reception we were handed the menu. So this is what we had – Beef tongue for starters, Baked Cobia with goose fat poached chantenay carrots, Roasted Deer Fillet, Pan Fried Goose breast and curry marinated turkey with chocolate Brussel sprouts for mains and Chocolate and Basil crimes with popcorn jelly for dessert.
Would I recommend you to visit Dans Le Noir – Definitely for the experience!
Would I go there again? Nah! I think I will pass.