Dining in the Dark Slideshow
July 3, 2012
Inspired by an exhibition at the Zurich Museum of Design that aimed to offer sighted people an understanding of the experience of being blind, Jorge Spielmann, a blind pastor in Zurich, opened Blindekuh and launched the worldwide dining in the dark trend in 1999. Blindekuh ("blind cow") takes its name from the German word for the game blind man's bluff. Housed in a former Methodist chapel, Blindekuh opened its doors as a restaurant, bar, and platform for education and culture in the dark. The meal takes place entirely in the dark, with the waitstaff mostly composed of people who are blind or visually impaired. Menus rotate weekly to highlight fresh, seasonal produce. A second location opened in Basel in 2005.
"It's better in the dark," promises O.NOIR on its website, and in Montreal, the in-the-dark restaurant serves up a three-course menu of French-Italian fare with the help of a team of visually impaired servers recruited by an organization that assists them with job placement.
Part of O.NOIR's proceeds support local associations that serve the blind and visually impaired. On Sunday nights diners can enjoy a performance by Les Ombres, a band composed of blind musicians and a mystery singer;
Opaque (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Yelp / Jennifer O
Close your eyes and embark on a "journey of taste." Guests begin in a lighted lounge at Opaque in Santa Monica where they choose a three-course prix fixe meal from a menu designed by a local chef before plunging into darkness with the guidance of servers who are blind or visually impaired.
The perfect spot for a celebrity who doesn't want to be seen dining, Opaque also appeals to diners seeking a sensuous experience. Opaque can also be found in Dallas, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Dinner in the Dark (Vienna)
A champagne reception in the light begins the three- to four-hour Dinner in the Dark experience from Vier Sinner in Vienna, an organization that also puts on team-building seminars and parties in the dark.
A four-course surprise menu is served in utter darkness, with diners guided by blind or visually impaired servers. An after dinner "after-dark" cocktail back in the light provides diners with the chance to see what they've eaten and compare notes on how much they were able to deduce from their other senses.
Dans le Noir?
Guests enter the dining area through an anti-chamber at Dans le Noir near Les Halles in the heart of Paris, to prevent breaking the spell of complete darkness.
Guests are asked to arrive half an hour before dinnertime, and then enjoy a drink in the lighted lounge where they choose two-, three-, or five-course menus featuring seasonal ingredients. Visitors are encouraged to use the restroom before going in to dine, so as not to interrupt their experience. Diners are seated with the assistance of a blind or visually impaired guide. Following dinner, guests get to see photos of their meals along with menu descriptions.
Market 17 (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Inspired by a visit to ctaste in Amsterdam, a managing partner from Market 17 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., decided to bring the dining-in-the-dark concept to this organic farm-to-table restaurant.
Four to eight surprise courses of wine country cuisine, dishes made from scratch using traditional French techniques, are optionally paired with wine from the 350-plus label list. Although silverware is provided, eating with your hands is encouraged in the totally dark private dining room.
Guests start with a drink in the lounge before making their food preferences known it's a surprise menu at ctaste, but guests can choose options like fish and fresh seafood, meat and poultry, or vegetarian. Ctaste's "true experts of the dark," what ctaste calls its blind or visually impaired servers, guide diners to their tables for three-course meals.
Aromas and taste are the focus of the experience. Besides dinner, ctaste also offers high tea or brunch on Sundays, and the staff can arrange beer, wine, or chocolate fondue experiences. Following the meal, guests can participate in a guessing game back in the lounge to discover if what they thought they were eating was what was really on their plates.
Dark Restaurant (Ponza?, Poland)
Fusion style meals prepared in accordance with slow food principles are on the menu at Dark Restaurant in Pozna, Poland. Two- to four-course standard menus are on offer, but the more adventurous may opt for the three-course mood food or bizarre food menus.
Waiters in night-vision goggles tend to diners in the pitch-black dining room in Dark Restaurant. Waitstaff can be summoned with the ring of a bell that is placed on each table. Guests may choose to meet the chef after the meal.
Nocti Vagus (Berlin)
In addition to serving dinner in absolute darkness, Nocti Vagus in Berlin also puts on performances on what it has dubbed the "worlds first dark stage." While experiencing their dinners in the dark, guests take in performances with themes ranging from "erotic dinner," sensual and erotic songs paired with the "love menu," to "scary night" to the "best of film music."
Surprise menus can be adapted to most any need at Nocti Vagus they have vegetarian, food allergy-sensitive, and kosher options. Chocolate and raw food menus are also available.
On July 7, Nocti Vagus will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a gala event featuring blind singer Joana Zimmer, "the Diva in the Dark."
Blackout (Tel Aviv, Israel)
If you want to eat at Blackout, the only dark restaurant in Israel and the only kosher dark restaurant in the world, get in line; theres usually a several week waiting list for reservations. Part of the Nalaga'at Center, where deaf, blind, and deaf-blind individuals and the public engage through cultural, artistic, and culinary experiences, Blackout offers the option to choose dishes in advance or go with the surprise menu.
Anyone who wishes may have a bib. Guests are encouraged to fully experience blindness by pouring themselves glasses of water and asking their servers about their lives with visual impairments. Anyone too uncomfortable to continue in the dark may take his or her meal in the Kapish cafe;
Dark Waiter (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Open since 2008, Dark Waiter in Copenhagen took their show on the road in honor of the Danish Blind Society's 100th anniversary, traveling around Denmark to take dining in the dark to new audiences. Dark Waiter offer three courses with beer and wine and they don't divulge what is on the menu unless diners make a special request. Guests, served by visually impaired waiters, are seated at communal tables with other diners.
Eclipse (Las Vegas)
Dining in the dark only recently came to Las Vegas with the Eclipse Dark Dining Experience at The Artisan Hotel. It's Vegas, so the mood is sexy,from the decor of subtle mood lighting and sleek fixtures to the music.
The experience begins three days ahead, when guests choose a three-course, prix fixe meal from a choice of four "blind" menus. The menus change with each event. After a drink in the lighted lounge where diners mix and mingle, visitors are blindfolded with soft sleeping masks and led to tables where they may sit with their new friends. Everyone is encouraged to discuss the experience and try to decipher the flavor profiles as they guess what they are tasting. Photos, and even samples, of the foods served are revealed after the meal.
Camaje (New York City)
No two experiences at Camaje, in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, are alike. Diners don comfy blindfolds and allow guides all trained dancers to lead them to their tables. Chef Abigail Hitchcock brings her botany background, cooking experience from around the globe, and her love of the science of cooking to the gourmet menu.
Musical performances between courses may feature anything from a baroque violin to South Indian percussion to Japanese flute, elevating the meal to performance art. The four-course menu, paired with wine, isnt revealed until after dinner.
Book well in advance New Year's Eve, Valentines Day, and Halloween Dark Dining events are always sold out.