Home reviews It’s Better In the Dark

It’s Better In the Dark

written by Head Health Nutter July 20, 2011

Alright, get your mind outta the gutter. 😉 We’re talking about experiencing the slow food movement in a crazy, whole new way. Let me tell you, after eating one dinner in complete darkness at O.NOIR restaurant you’ll quickly learn to slow down and enjoy your food while having fun all at the same time!

This past Monday my family and I dined at O.NOIR restaurant where they serve you in a pitch black dining room. Can you imagine? I tried to before we got there but it came nothing close to the real deal.

(By the way, we heard of O.NOIR through my cousin’s work friend who took his blind date there. Unfortunately, she missed out BIG TIME – she left in the middle of dinner.)

Why dine in the dark? The idea is to strip away your sight so that your sense of taste and smell is enhanced. All of the servers at O.NOIR are blind as they are the most capable of serving in this type of environment.

The best part? The restaurant donates part of its proceeds to local charities and organizations for the visually impaired!

From the website:

This socially conscious concept sprang from Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich who used to blindfold his dinner guests at his home so they could share his eating experience. In 1999, Spielmann opened Blindekuh (German for Blind Cow); a project aimed at teaching the sighted about the sightless world, and provide jobs for blind people.

Now that you have a rundown of the basics, would you like to read about our dinner at O.NOIR in Toronto?

Located at Church and Jarvis, we walked down a set of stairs and into the cavernous, Gothic-like lobby. Along the back wall as you enter is the braille alphabet. There’s a comfortable sitting area and a wall lined with a bookshelf. On the opposite side of the room is the bar.

This is where a sighted host presents you with a menu so you may choose your appetizer, main meal and dessert – including your choice of a `surprise’ in every category. (The surprise is like their daily specials, you just don’t know what they are!) All of the choices sounded delectable but I went with the grilled calamari, surprise main and fruit sorbet.

When our table was ready, we were lead to the entrance of one of the dining rooms where we met our lovely yet direct and highly communicative server, Diane. She instructed us to line up and put our left hand on the person in front of us. She then opened the door to the dining room where immediately the smells hit me like a brick wall and kicked my taste buds into high gear!

She led us to our table and individual chairs, all the while being friendly yet assertive, and laying down some ground rules. We were served warm, delicious ciabatta buns to start with while we waited for our drinks.

It was so unusual! We had to feel around the table to get our bearings and also to find our bread plates and butter. Have you tried buttering bread in the dark? It’s no small feat! Some bites had no butter while others had a little too much…

When Diane brought our drinks, we all agreed to place them at 1 o’clock so we wouldn’t knock them over. Not only did our taste and smells increase, so did our communication skills!

It was quite challenging and there were many times each of us brought empty forks up to our mouths. I admit, I was hungry and frustration got the better of me; I ate a slice of potato and a green bean with my fingers. Then I told myself if the visually-impaired use cutlery, and I know they do, so will I. Another challenge was determining whether we cleaned our plates!

I’ll resist going into any more detail – I really feel it’s an experience one should try themselves. However, I WILL tell you the food was absolutely amazing and it was incredibly fun! We even fed each other so we could try each others meals… yes, you read that right. We found a way and only one of us left the restaurant with the smallest spot of dessert sauce on their shirt!

I highly recommend O.NOIR in Toronto – have you been? There are other dine in the dark restaurants all over the world, too, in Montreal, New York, L.A., Australia and Europe.

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