Sunday, July 20, 2008
Restaurant Review: Dans Le Noir
Last night, Mel, my friend Emily (more on that in a minute), and I went to dinner at Dans Le Noir, a concept restaurant where you eat in complete darkness. The first restaurant opened in Paris and employs blind waiters, and there are now restaurants in London and Moscow. The place is actually right across from my office in Clerkenwell Green, so when Mel and Em told me where we were going I knew I had seen it before.
The point of the restaurant is to enhance your other four senses to increase your eating experience. You aren't told what you're going to eat, and there is no menu; before you enter the dark dining room (dark = pitch black), you are asked to choose from menus - white can be any meat, blue is seafood, red is red meat, and green is vegetarian. You can also have 2 or 3 courses - starter and main, main and dessert, or all three. Wine is also an option, as well as cocktails and beer, and are chosen for you to complement your menu.
When you enter the dark dining room, they group parties together to form tables of 8. Mel, Em, and I joined a procession with two other parties, and we followed Takashi, our waiter, with our right hands on the shoulders of the people infront of us. We were led down a dim corridor and into pitch blackness, and seated at a long table. For the first 10 minutes I really freaked out; Takashi seated Mel and Em next to each other and then put me to the side, seated a few other people, and then led me around to the other side of the table so that I was facing Mel. Just standing there alone, not knowing where I was going to go, was awful. Once I sat down, however, and ate some bread, I felt much better.
Eating the entrees was fun, because you have no idea how the food is placed on the plate or in what proportion (how much of one thing to another). I had ordered blue, for seafood, and was pleased to find I had cod, giant shrimp, mashed potatoes, fennel, and something that tasted like sauerkraut. I was able to eat with a fork, which got harder as there was less food on my plate, but it was relatively easy once I developed a system for understanding where things were located and how to get them on the fork (the clock/time directions were helpful). Dessert was not so good, as there was something fruity and Jello-y that was pretty nasty, and not enough chocolate for our group's taste.
The time in-between courses was too long, and not being able to see my companions' faces was really hard for me. I also feel like I missed out on hilarity, as Em said she ate most of her food with her hands and had sauce all over her face. We had wine with dinner, but definitely needed another drink after the whole experience. We left the dark dining room and it was a relief to be able to see again. I was spot on with my assessment of my meal; the gross dessert was mango custard (yuck), and our wine was a rose which none of us expected (we had guessed Chardonney or Sauvignon Blanc).
Overall, it was an experience I'm glad I had, and would recommend to adventurous sorts, but I don't think I would ever replicate. I will also now eat more carrots to ensure I protect my vision.