If you live in or around Manhattan, it’s essential that you partake in all the activities, history, culture, and unique experiences that this great city has to offer.
Go to the museums, famous landmarks, parks, and bridges. Take in a Broadway show or head to Lincoln Center for the Ballet. Go to a taping of the Daily Show or a concert at BB Kings.
Orrrrr, ya know, go to a restaurant where you eat in complete darkness, are served by blind waiters, and have no idea what you’re eating.
…Say what now??
I’m still not quite sure how the hell she found out about this place, but when my sister-in-law Nicki sent me the link to ‘Dans Le Noir’ I *literally* laughed out loud at my desk at work. After clicking the link I immediately stumbled upon this sentence:
“Dinner in the total darkness, guided and served by blind people, is a unique experience that changes our perception of the world by reversing points of view.”
You’re kidding, right? What do you mean ‘served by blind people?!’ Like, BLIND blind? Ray Charles blind? And you eat in a pitch black room?? What the hell is this place?!
Needless to say, I love an adventure.
Fast forward one week later, and Matt, my brother Mike, Nicki and I were sitting at the bar at Dans Le Noir (which, in French, translates to ‘In The Black’) being instructed by a blind host and a man from Barcelona about how our night was gonna go down. Waivers were signed, our personal belongings (especially anything that emitted light) were put in lockers, and we were told to select one of the four menus: White (Surprise), Red (“Land Animals,” AKA- meat), Blue (Seafood) or Green (Vegetarian).
Matt and Mike were brave and chose White, so I did too. Nicki hates seafood, so she went with Red to avoid getting anything from ‘Unda Da Sea.’ The nice Barcelonian (not a word) man instructed us that while we won’t know what we’re being served, this ain’t an episode of Fear Factor, and we wouldn’t be dining on Cow Eyeballs or Flamingo Testicles or anything like that. So, that was comforting.
He also explained how we all tend to ‘eat with our eyes,’ meaning we identify what our food is by seeing it, which then affects how we think it tastes. For example, I can SEE I’m eating salmon, so that’s why I know it TASTES like salmon. But, if I’m served salmon in TOTAL darkness and I can’t see it? There’s a good chance I don’t have a clue WHAT I’m eating. He told us that in the dark, people often think they’re even drinking red wine when it’s actually white, and vice versa. Sounds implausible, but don’t underestimate the power of vision.
That said, what’s the deal with the blind waiters then? Well, sure, it’s a way for the guests of the restaurant to get a feel for what it’s like to be in their situation, but even more important, it becomes an interesting role reversal where the blind server actually becomes YOUR guide. They know what it’s like to be blind; you don’t. They know their way around the restaurant; you don’t. They know how to eat, drink, walk, work and get around without the luxury of sight. You don’t.
Gives new meaning to “the blind leading the blind.”
Before heading to the dark dining room, we met our awesome and hilarious (and of course, blind) waiter Sam. Sam gave us the low-down of how we were going to find our way to our seats: you’d put your left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of you, and make a ‘human train.’ (NOT to be confused with a Human Centipede, which Matt grossly made a joke about.)
So, we began to move. We made it through the big velvet curtain and BAM! If you want to know what it looked like in the restaurant, well, here you go:
I’m. Not. Kidding.
Until you experience something like this for yourself, you really can’t properly explain it. Once we all were individually shown to our seats, we had to rely on our four other human sense organs to figure out what the F was going on. We learned how to pour ourselves water from a pitcher (Folks, that ain’t easy. Let me tell ya.) and had to feel around for our utensils. Have you ever tried to use utensils when you can’t see a damn thing? OF COURSE YOU HAVEN’T. And it’s goddamn impossible!!!!
Once the first course arrived, we realized we had to dig in — no, literally, I mean with our hands — to feel around for what was on our plate. You’d also attempt to use your sense of smell to determine what you were about to shove in your mouth as well. And that’s when, quite frankly, shit got hilarious. Conversations at our table sounded like this:
“OK, I just ate something cold and round… what is this? Like a stuffed mushroom or something?”
“Yeah, I had that too. It’s definitely a stuffed mushroom.”
<Side note: we found out later that it was NOT a stuffed mushroom.>
“What is the meat? Is it chicken? It might be chicken. Oh wait, no, it might be steak. Is it steak?”
<It wasn’t either of those.>
“What’s the jiggly thing on the lower left part of the plate?”
“What jiggly thing? I don’t have a jiggly thing!”
“Guys, what’s the thing that’s like a mini thimble that you can stick your thumb in?!”
<Yes, that was me.>
“Hahahaha you stuck your thumb in something?!?!”
“I’m not gonna lie, Al — I stuck my thumb in it too.”
<Andddddddd that would be my brother.>
“ALI ARE YOU STILL THERE?”
“Yes, where the hell would I go?! I can’t see shit! I’ve just been concentrating on trying to refill my water glass.”
“Oh, crap, I definitely just spilled food on my shirt.”
“Okay I am totally eating spaghetti with my hands right now.”
“You just hit me in the head!”
“Are these meatballs?”
“Haaaaaa, Ali, I know you hate onions but I’m pretty sure that bread thingy had onions on it!”
“Do you guys have your eyes open or closed?”
For 60+ minutes, we laughed like little schoolgirls, chatted with the other people at our table, and ate three different plates of mystery food, including dessert. Sam also provided us with not only assistance but some comic relief as well — when Matt asked where he was at one point, Sam gave him a deadpan response: “I’m right here; what are you blind or somethin?”
I won’t divulge any details about the food we ate (they show you the menu after so you can identify everything) in case you ever decide to brave Dans Le Noir yourself. I have to say, it was SUCH an eye-opening (ha!) and cool experience and I totally recommend that you go if you can.
Prepare to be terrified at first, then to laugh your ass off, and then be completely disoriented when you finally get to emerge back into the light (not gonna lie; it feels like you’re staring directly into a Solar Eclipse).
But Sam was right when he said, “You’ll go out to eat at other restaurants in the future, and I promise, you won’t forget about Dans Le Noir.”
It’s true; it really was unforgettable.
…but it’ll be nice to be out to dinner and NOT have to eat rice with my hands.