Seeing is believing...or is it?
Dining in the dark has never been this fun
Story and photo by Nicholas Persad
Our blind waiter instructed my friend to place his left hand on his (the waiter's) left shoulder and for me to do the same to my friend. I took one last glimpse at the dim room as the waiter opened the door, and we entered the seemingly black abyss that is Montreal’s O.Noir.
Flashback five minutes...
I walked in, already nervous. The waiting room to O. Noir was small, but crowded. The lighting was unusually dim, probably to prepare everyone for the shock that awaited them in the adjacent room. The attendant asked if I made a reservation, and I told her no. She looked at her seating arrangement book and said she could squeeze the two of us in tonight. I breathed a sigh of relief while simultaneously a feeling of greater anxiety overtook my body.
We were told to order our food in this waiting room and then remove all items that could produce any form of light: cellular phones, cameras, watches, Ipods, etc., and store them in one of the provided lockers. Suddenly, I saw him. Our waiter. He walked over to my friend and me and said "hello." He was wearing dark sunglasses. I could not see his eyes, but I didn’t need to because I already knew he was blind.
Five minutes passed and then...
We were engulfed in darkness. My eyes became confused. I felt my pupils contracting to find any possible light in the room. There was none. I felt lost. I had no perception of where anything was in relation to me. It was an overwhelming feeling. I gripped a little tighter into my friends shoulder, worried that I might let go for a second and be left in this pitch black room without guidance.
As we walked, I bumped into some objects at the side of me. I assumed they were tables or chairs or even other patrons. We stopped for about a minute. I instinctively thought we were about to ascend a stairwell and began to panic. “Are we going up some stairs?” I asked with uncertainty. My friend laughed, and then I realized we were at our table. I cautiously sat down. The waiter explained exactly how the cutlery and table was arranged. He then said our food would be coming shortly. I listened to hear if he was still standing at the table, but I couldn’t tell.
Finally, I felt able to relax and take in the experience. I pushed my hand in front of my friends face. He didn’t even not even know it was there. We began to laugh at the situation we were in. I noticed the room was very loud from the conversations of the other diners. I also realized that both my friend and I were talking much louder than we normally do.
Suddenly, I heard the voice of the waiter right next to me. I was startled. “Here is your starter sir,” he said. He placed the octopus salad in front of me. I struggled to find my fork and began to eat. Initially, I tried to eat with some form of dining etiquette. However, every time I used my fork, the end result would be no food in my mouth.
Then it dawned on me that I was in a restaurant where no one could see me. I dropped my fork back on the table and resorted to the days of our barbaric ancestors. I picked up all my food with my hands and stuffed it into my mouth. An exorbitant amount of flavor attacked my taste buds. Every spice and seasoning was apparent. I knew I was eating vegetables but when I ate some of the octopus, the taste was something my mouth had never experienced.
The waiter returned with our main courses, and my friend and I began to feast. Cutlery did not exist in the dark world of O.Noir, well at least not for us. I was eating rice with shrimp but then an unfamiliar taste caused me to pause. I didn’t know what I was eating. I started chewing faster trying to figure out what it was. I ate the whole thing and still couldn’t tell. But at that point it didn’t matter. We finished our meals, and discussed the perplexity of this entire adventure.
Our waiter returned and asked if we were ready to leave. We left the darkness in the same way we came. As the waiter opened the door my eyes flinched. The dim light in the waiting room now seemed like the sun. I was blinking crazily. I looked at my friend and we both had no words to describe what we had just done.
The food was good, but this restaurant is not about the food. It is about placing yourself, for about an hour, into the world the blind face every day. It was definitely worth the $45 that I paid, and I would go back and do it again in the blink of an eye.
APN gives O.Noir 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Already popular in Europe, this unique experience of dining in the dark is now taking the Western world by storm.
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