You are surrounded by complete and utter darkness. You strain your eyes with the hopes that they will adjust to the darkness, and you can gain some sense of where you are. You reach out your hands in front of you, hoping to feel something that you are familiar with. Your ears perk up, and you hear someone say, “Welcome to Dining in the Dark.”
This past Saturday night, as a Mother’s Day surprise, my boyfriend brought me to Dans Le Noir – Dining in the Dark. Since I had read about its opening a few months ago (the restaurant is only a couple months old), I knew that this was one restaurant I had to try. The concept of dining in the dark intrigued me, and it was like nothing else I had ever heard of in NYC. The concept originated in Europe, and the opening of Dans Le Noir in NYC is the first of its kind in the US (good ole’ NY – you always manage to make me fall in love with you time and time again!).
Our reservation was for 8pm, and as we swung the door open, we were faced with a modern style lounge. We checked in, and were given a paper to sign that described the the do’s and don’ts of dining in pitch blackness. Everyone is required to check their belongings into a locker, which is meant to eliminate any chance of objects given off light in the dining room. Next we were asked to choose what type of menu we wanted to enjoy for dinner. There were four options – green for vegetarian, blue for seafood, red for carnivores, and white is the ultimate experience of a surprise menu. I chose Red since I had been doing a detox diet all week, and I missed my meat, and my date chose Blue. As we were awaiting being brought into the main room, we ordered a couple of cocktails. They had selections of drinks ranging from sweet to refreshing, as well as a Surprise Cocktail option if you were feeling adventurous. I chose a cucumber basil cocktail, and it was incredibly delicious. Bret is into fruity rum drinks, so his was just that.
Shortly after receiving our drinks, they let us know it was our time to head in. I felt like a little school girl, exciting to see what was next, yet not knowing what to expect or how I would take it all in. There were two other couples that were asked to stand in line with us, separating the women into one line, and men into another. We were then introduced to our guide/server (all the servers are blind), and he asked us to put our left hand onto the left shoulder of the person in front of us. We did so, and in train-like fashion, we left our light filled room, and emerged into pure blackness. It was such a weird feeling when you want to look around, but their is nothing to see. It gives you a feeling of being alone, and not having any control over your surroundings or your experience. Then you hear your fellow diners saying “oh my god.. I can’t see anything. This is so crazy,” and then you are reminded that you aren’t alone in this unique adventure. You are brought to your seat, and given a brief spiel about where your silverware is, and tips on how to eat and drink so that it doesn’t end up in your lap. You are literally sat at the same table as those that are brought in with you, so it is more of a communal dinner than romantic dinner (I mean, how romantic can it be when you can’t see your date, you’re stumbling around to feel for their hand, and eating takes a great deal of concentration). Pop music fills the air, along with laughter from other patrons enjoying their time in the dark. They bring out your meal, which consists of an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. I will not tell you what I ate in case you want to check this place out (wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise), but what I can tell you is that it was delicious, and everything that I thought I had eaten was completely wrong. As you struggle to find where the food is located on your plate so that you can get something on your fork (I’m not going to lie - dining etiquette went out the window when I was in the dark, and I used my hands to eat at times), once the food tastes your lips, you enjoy the food to a whole other level. In order to try to figure out what you are eating you really have to savor the flavor. It is a funny feeling when you know you have eaten whatever you just put in your mouth before, but your mind has to check in with is food database to determine exactly what it is (you never realize how similar pineapple and mango taste until you eat them in the dark!).
After everyone has finished their meals, you are lead out the same way you came in. They show you pictures of what you just ate, and I can guarantee you will be completely surprised. Some things that I was so sure of, were so completely off (in my defense though, I had never eaten some of ingredients in my dishes). All in all, this dining experience was definitely like no other that I have experienced. I would recommend it to anyone who has an adventurous spirit because it is totally worth it!