Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dans le Noir

Dans le Noir is an experience I will never forget and in all probability never repeat, but I would certainly recommend it.

A friend had read about this restaurant and was curious so we decided on it as our once-a-month 'dining club' venue. This is a circle of a few of my good and perpetually hungry (like me!) friends of mine who take turns to organise restaurant trips to interesting new places we've discovered or have not yet tried. Having such an unusual concept, Dans le Noir was not to be missed.

The translation for 'Dans le Noir' is 'In the Black' - and that is the whole concept - dining in pitch black.

On arrival the four of us had to store our belongings including phones and light up watches into lockers. This is to prevent any light entering the dining area at all, and to prevent people forgetting/losing bags et cetera. We were given a choice of 4 different meals - a surprise meal, a seafood meal, a vegetarian meal and a meaty meal. We were not told what was included in any of the meals. All of us having the same mindset when it comes to food, we all went for the surprise meal.

Led by our blind waiter we walked hands on shoulders in a train through curtains, curtains and more curtains before arriving in what felt like a massive dining area. Obviously we could see nothing but our other senses were certainly heightened. What would normally have been perceived as a huddled conversation sounded like a lively and public debate. My sense of spacial relations was completely distorted - while I felt like I was in a massive room, at the same time whenever we came near any other diners I felt like I was about to fall over them. We had previously imagined that we would be able to see something - at least a persons silhouette or even our own hand in front of our faces - but we were proved wrong. Your eyes do not adjust to absolute darkness.

Arriving at our table, there was a moment of panic. I was told to stand and wait for my friends at the other side of the table to be shown to their chairs but I was antsy - out of my dept, and for reasons unknown I decided to turn around. Such a small movement. I was still in the same place; just rotated around a little. However, I had absolutely no visual measure of how much I had turned and therefore I now had no idea where the table was! Thankfully our friendly waiter finished showing my friends their seats and I was rescued, with no-one any the wiser.

Ordeal over, we went about finding our way around the table. We had to feel for our plates, our cutlery, our glasses. We spoke and figured out where each of us was. Easy. Then the waiter brought over a basket of bread. Then a jug of water. Not quite so easy after that! We had to be careful not to hit each other in the face when passing around the bread basket. And trying to pour water from a jug into a glass, both of which you cannot see, was something special. We had a bit of a giggle and some soggy bread.

Then the proper food came. The food tasted good but what was amazing was the texture! It would seem that not being able to see your food not only heightens the taste but as you try to figure out what you are eating the texture becomes all the more important. Using cutlery to try and pick up things you cannot see is an 'interesting experience'. From what I could tell, more than one piece of food went flying around the black abyss. Most stabs of the fork yielded nothing but an unsatisfying clink on the plate. I learnt a whole new way of holding the fork - I had to extend my finger to the tip of the fork so that I could feel the food I was attempting to spear. Even this method was discarded by the end of the main meal as I just poked around the plate to see if there was anything left! (Thankfully no-one could see pucca_love_13)

All the food was pretty good and as we heard each other's guesses we'd have another chomp of our food to try and taste what they were tasting. We tasted a few different kinds of meat which we all guessed differently, as well as some kind of filled pasta. The dessert was a zesty brulee and some chocolates. The conversation never left the food as we endlessly discussed our shared experience.

By the time we were finished and left the room I felt as disoriented as when I entered the blackened room. The light burst into view, and we were greeted by a waitress who gave us the bill and finally explained what we were actually eating. Of course, we cannot be blamed for not guessing the meats - we had eaten guinea fowl, crocodile and deer! Our broad guesses for the other parts of the meal were generally correct.

I could write forever and not be able to describe everything about the experience so I end this story with a recommendation to try the restaurant for yourself, and some friendly advice - ALWAYS OBEY THE WAITER!!! pucca_love_07

The reality of Dans le Noir

Happy eating,


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