As a post final exam celebration, a group of us embarked on what I can only describe as the extreme of sensory experiences and adventurous eating: we had dinner at Dans le Noir.
A trendy restaurant with branches in Paris, London, Barcelona, New York and Saint Petersburg, Dans le Noir attempts to turn haute cuisine on its head by having patrons eat, well, in the dark. But it’s not just any kind of darkness; it’s the sort of pitch black that exists only in nightmares; the kind that even eyes with 20/20 vision cannot adjust to.
They say that you eat with your eyes first. Well, at Dans le Noir you end up eating with pretty much everything else. Adaptive plasticity is what enables blind people’s other senses to become heightened, and so too after being seated, it’s up to your nose, mouth and fingers to try to discern what’s on the plate in front of you. Because having a blind meal is only part of the fun - the other part is that you’re only told what you’re served after you’ve eaten it. So course by course you’re left guessing what the chef prepared. In theory this kind of literal blind tasting should make you appreciate food for more than its aesthetics - the odors, the textures, etc. In practice, though, it’s a much less dignified experience. Eating without being able to see poses a number of challenges, like getting the food from the plate into your mouth and not onto your face.
Our server, despite her best efforts, managed to spill some wine on my lap and clip the back of my head with a plate. But this was nothing compared to poor George, one half of the British couple seated somewhere to my left, whose dessert sampler somehow got shoved right into his nose.
While the eating part of the meal was tricky, talking to people when you can’t see them was possibly even more disconcerting. I suppose we must have been speaking at an elevated volume to compensate, for our server kept urging us not to shout. So while I can’t ultimately recommend the food, I can say that the experience produces a lot of conversational gems, like the following.
“I just ate a lemon.”
“What is this shit?!”
“Ow! That was my nose!”
“I keep picking up my fork, and then it’s empty.”
“Who’s touching my leg?!”
“I hope this wine is going into my glass…”
“OH MY GOD! WAS THAT SQUID??”
“You’re talking right into my face. Are you trying to kiss me?”
“Alright, screw it. I’m using my fingers.”
So, if you’re ever in need of a creative first date…