Dining In The Dark

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to eat … without being able to see? Well, you can experience eating at a restaurant without being able to see! Yes, that’s right, your only senses would be touch, smell, taste and hearing.

Dark Table Restaurant is a concept that started in Switzerland (the first “Dining in the Dark” originated in France, in 1993). And now you can experience Dark Table restaurants in Canada.

It was a rainy evening when my friend Michelle Friesen and I arrived at Dark Table Restaurant in Vancouver. There are two seating times you can choose from: we took the later time of 8:15 p.m.

The restaurant has an outdoor covering and seating area where a sighted maȋtre-d’ provides you with information about your experience and the menus.

You’ll pre-order your meal from the menu and be taken inside by a blind or visually impaired server.

Michelle and I looked at the menu and we spotted “surprise meals.” Yes, that means you don’t know what you will receive until you eat it!

We placed our order, and our server appeared. She was a super-tiny, bubbly lady named Yuko, and she instructed me to put one arm on her shoulder and then for Michelle to put one arm on mine—and off we went. She yelled,”Choo-choo!” We were a “train” entering into the dark abyss. 

Immediately our sense of sight was gone and it was very disorientating. Our eyes were constantly trying to see if they could see anything. There was absolutely no light. Our cellphones were off. No light at all.

Our server took my hand, placed it on the table and moved my body to where my chair was. It was a strange sensation having someone unable to see who was guiding my body as to where to go.

She sat Michelle down and we sat opposite each other. I ran my hand over the table and we grabbed hands. It was a surreal experience not being able to see each other.

Our server said we had to yell “Yuko!” if we wanted anything (since we couldn’t just raise our hands to summon her back).

We sat there and could hear other people at their tables. We had no idea how far they were from us or what they looked like.

Yuko brought our cocktails and then guided our hands along the table to the base of our glasses. They were stem glasses too! We tasted our cocktails and could guess “apple.” Then, with another taste, “lemon.” We continued guessing what we were drinking.

Eventually our first course came, which was a surprise sharing starter. We could smell our food but our sense of smell wasn’t used to working this hard to figure out what we were eating.

We weren’t given any cutlery, so we moved our hands along the table, to the bowl, and when we put our hands inside, it was gooey, wet and warm. It felt like vegetables in some kind of sauce. When I pulled them out, I attempted to bring them to my face, but my orientation was so far off, at times, that I hit my cheek or had to stick my tongue out to guide it in. It was delicious. The touch, smell and taste experience of eating that dish was so bizarre without being able to see it.

After the starter, it was time for more cocktails. Patience is definitely a virtue in this dining experience (expect to spend about two hours or more on your multiple-course meal and service).

Our next dish arrived and, this time, we had a knife and fork. OK, so that meant we had to cut something. The first step was to find our plates and then to touch our food to figure out what was on our plates—and where. It felt like a steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Guiding our hands, with the fork, to the meat and then bringing in the knife (safely), we cut our steaks, which were perfectly cooked and melted in our mouths.

The cutting and eating definitely took time and patience, but the food was delicious and the cocktails were amazing.

Once we were finished, Yuko came and took us out of the dining area. We were on the shoulder-to-shoulder “Choo-Choo Express,” through the blackout curtains to the bar area. All of a sudden we were in a room filled with light, and the brightness was overwhelming. After a few hours of eating in the dark, my eyes had forgotten what light felt like. 

It took time to adjust, but once we paid and stepped outside, it felt like we had left a wonderland—this unique world that we had been part of for a very short time.
For more information or to reserve a table, visit http://www.darktable.ca/about.html

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