Dinner in the Dark

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My very favorite thing about the blogs I read every day is the pictures.  As a person who likes to cook there is something so fun about watching all of the elements of a great plate of food come together on the pages of a blog…without the need to wash a single dish.

However, there are no pictures to go along with this post.  If you know about this event, or made an obvious conclusion based on the title of the post, you can understand why.  Over the weekend my husband and I had a three course dinner served, literally, in the dark.  And not just “dark”, friends. No, I’m talking about DARK.  This was the kind of pitch-black can’t-see-your-hand-two-inches-from-your eyes kind of dark.

It was an absolute blast, and I highly recommend it if you ever have the chance.  There are permanent restaurants in Paris and London offering this dark dining year round, but the event was in Bangkok for only a week as part of a month-long celebration of arts called La Fete.  In addition to being a lot of fun the event also raised funds for the Thailand Association of the Blind.  All of the servers at the event were blind, insuring that those who served the meal were far more capable of finding their way around the pitch black ballroom than those of us who were eating it.

We were directed to our table via a conga line which started with my enthusiastic husband and ended with a Thai couple who clearly felt thrown the moment we walked into the pitch black room and started sending messages through the conga line – “cha cha” (slowly)!  Once seated, our soft-spoken server brought around the wine and guided our hands through a tour of the place setting in front of us.  Unfortunately, she came by only after I proceeded to stick my hand directly in the middle of the plate…which was already covered with a dressed salad.

I had read that dining in the dark results in a heightening of the other senses.  For me, this was true on some fronts.  I was hyper aware of the discussions of others who sat nearby and was truly, much more aware of the flavor combinations in the food and wine.  However, I also was oddly unable to identify what I was eating.  I somehow became convinced that the protein in my salad was steak when it was, in fact, tuna.  (That was the worst of the confusion.)  I mistook leeks for fennel and couldn’t identify the fish served during the main course (turned out to be monkfish).  Oddly though, my nose seemed to be working overtime to make up for my floundering taste buds.  I could smell the subtle mushrooms in the main course before tasting it and picked up a hint of chocolate in the dessert that ended up being just a thin sliver of dark chocolate decoration on the top.

Although the food was good, I wouldn’t say that it was worth seeking out on its own.  The experience, however, was one that I would happily repeat.  Everything from donning an apron before the event (to protect dinner clothes from inevitable spills), to trying to pour wine into a glass in the dark and succeeding only in getting it all over the table, to my husband telling me hours later that he had abandoned his fork and knife and eaten the first course with his fingers, make me laugh even now.

As much as I thought the experience might be stressful because there are so many unknowns, I had a surprisingly opposite response.  I don’t know that I’ve ever felt quite so relaxed at a dinner out.  There were no neighbors to watch and distract us from conversation, no concern over signaling the waiter across the room, and no thought about the pacing of the meal or the amount of food left on my plate when I was finished.  I felt far more comforted by the pitch black around me than disoriented.

When we moved to Bangkok, I knew it would give my husband and I the chance to do all kinds of things that we never would have been able to do elsewhere.  There are plenty of adventures that we anticipated we might get to have while living in Asia, but there have also been a handful of wonderful surprises.  This was one of them.

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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. Reason # 456 why you’re my soul mate: I JUST googled “dining in the dark” TODAY at 6am after Mia was up for the day. A girl I went to high school with is involved with a traveling version of this so I was looking to see when it was coming to Boston. Then, tonight, I read your post 🙂

    1. You guys would love it! I’m crossing my fingers in hopes that it’s coming to Boston soon! I wonder if they offer Mia-sized portions? 😉

  2. I have read about these too, but I have never had the opportunity to attend one. Thanks for the play-by-play. It’s fascinating to hear about the flavors you confused. Funny how our other senses can play tricks on us.

  3. That is such a fantastic idea! I first saw the “dining in the dark” experience on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s TV show – Hell’s Kitchen. I have seen it a few times since then, but have no idea where they were. My problem would be that there are a lot of things – like seafood – that I don’t eat, so I would be hyper nervous about what I was putting in my mouth at any given time. On the other hand, if I knew it would be “safe” for me, I think that would be a fantastic experience. Kinda like Mardi Gras – everyone has to try it at least once. 😉 Glad you had the opportunity!

    1. Chris – the good news is that they were very cautious about asking if we had any allergies or food preferences before we went, so if you do get a chance to go, I think they’d take good care of you. The vegetarian option looked pretty tasty (we were able to see plated versions of the food after we ate)!