In the Dark

Quick what’s your favourite food trend?  Farm-to-table and locally sourced?  Everything adorned with a fried egg?  Food manipulated to look like other food aka molecular get over yourself gastronomy?  Fancy comfort food?  Bacon chocolate and bacon wrapped veggies and basically bacon everywhere?  Yeah, me too. But here’s one that’s starting to turn into A Thing for those that like eating adventurously, or at least completely cluelessly: eating in the dark.

When I say dark, I mean can’t-see-your-hands, eyes-don’t-adjust, what-the-shit-is-this-on-my-fork and who-just-grazed-my-leg dark. Blind as a bat. Helplessly inept. Inert. Totally hooped and most likely reverting to eating with your fingers like a caveman by course two. You get me? It’s dark.

These dark restaurants are having quite a moment, with independently owned locations popping up in the likes of Berlin, Paris, London, San Francisco, Toronto, and my good old hometown of Vancouver (go Canucks! Just joking!). It seems there’s something to dig about losing a sense, relying entirely on taste and immersing yourself in the pleasure of eating with the blissful absence of the trivial i.e. eye contact, table manners, getting dressed, etc. Besides being liberating in a carnivorous, instinctual way, it’s also an interesting social experiment when you’re forced to tune in to what your date’s actually talking about, without the distraction of appearance or other people around.  Because of that, everything is sharper, more acute, like touching the dial on a radio just so to zero in on that crystal clear bit of frequency. It’s trippy, and satisfying, and just like other things that are trippy and satisfying, you gotta smoke some of this.

Charlie and I ventured to Vancouver’s own Dark Table ready to surrender ourselves to the whole experience, mystery meat and all. You’re allowed to order off the menu if you’re a pussy, in the light at the entrance before you’re escorted in, but I challenge you to do what we did and go for the “surprise”– three courses of their choosing.  The servers are all blind or visually impaired and know the restaurant inside and out, so you’re going to have to throw your relationship issues to the wind and trust them right off the bat to expertly guide you through the experience. I won’t lie– the darkness is shocking and intimidating at first, and there’s nothing sexy about the conga line of your hands on your server’s shoulders as you’re led to your table, blinking and stumbling like a drunken mole. But once you sit down and feel for your cutlery (you won’t really use that once you figure out no one’s watching) and are poured a hefty glass of wine (thank you, finally), the easy, warm chatter from the other tables in the room feels just like any other restaurant.  While we giggled into our bread basket and made Anchorman jokes, everyone else talked about normal dinner topics like home renovations, their days at work, even singing happy birthday to some poor sap, like the fact that we’d all been turned into Helen Keller was totally normal and buttering your napkin by mistake was nothing out of the ordinary.  It felt relaxing. Comfortable. And freeing.

Except for when you had to go to the bathroom.

We were instructed by our server to call his name when we needed to get up so he could lead the way, so off Charlie went while I was left in the dark to eavesdrop on the Tinder date sitting next to me. We were also instructed to wait for the server to collect us from the bathroom, but because Charlie is a man, he decided to “go it alone” and find his own way back to the table, which meant I got to listen to a succession of “hello there! oh, pardon me,” and finally a defeated calling out of “hello? hello?!” while he apparently hugged the only wall he could find until our server came to his rescue. Word to the stubborn: it’s best to listen to their instructions and go slow when you’re fishing for that wine glass. Unless you’re Charlie, in which case just shoot a hand out like a snake in a can and fumble for it until it works its way to the edge of the table and smashes off into nowhere. He is soooo good-lookin’.

Like a restaurant with a beautiful view, you might think because Dark Table is more of a themey place that the food doesn’t need to be that great.  And that might be true if you did have that beautiful view to look at. But all Dark Table can really rely on to bring you back for a second visit is the taste of the food, and they seem to get that they’ve gotta work extra hard to impress in that department. It isn’t wildly fancy, but it’s rustically hearty and satisfying, with things like roasted squash salad (I think), rich and tender beef stew (veal?), and cheesecake with berries (I’m playing it safe) for dessert. It’s surprisingly good. Some culinary highlights:

delightful squash salad
delightful squash salad
lovely stew
lovely stew
beautiful cheesecake
beautiful cheesecake

 

Is this a great date spot? Unless you want to show off that new Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, then yes.  It’s sensual and romantic, and just out of your comfort zone enough to make it interesting. This might even be an out-of-the-box first date spot if you owned a brass pair of cojones, or at the very least wanted a good story to tell. It’s great to take people from out of town, too, or that friend you have who chews with their mouth open. Bonus is it isn’t crazy expensive either, ranging around the $40 range for three courses per person. So to sum it up: you don’t have to look nice, and the food is great and plentiful and won’t break the bank. The only thing not to like is that this face isn’t going to admire itself (she kids!) and I do love a romantic dinner over candlelight. But for once in awhile?  It’s worth venturing out into the black.

 

XOJBS

 

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Rob says:

    I love the food photos.

    It actually sounds like a fun way to spend an evening. I’ll have to keep an eye out for one in a city near me, wherever that might be. And I’ll be sure to ask for help returning from the bathroom… 🙂

  2. Karina Wright says:

    If you go the “Surprise Me” route, are you allowed to exclude a food item lest you ralph on their floor if served it?

  3. Meg says:

    Molecular get over yourself gastronomy! My sentiments exactly! Cannot understand the hype. And as a scientist, there’s no way I’d add the same stuff I use to grow E. coli to my food. Work stays at work.

  4. Fernando says:

    you don’t need light to enjoy a good meal and I don’t need to go to that restaurant to imagine the whole experience. Every little detail you wrote here is part of the mental picture I now have.
    black pictures…. genius! (sooo funny).

  5. Cupertino Jay says:

    my better half reminds there’s a short scene in a fine 2013 time travel flick “About Time” set in such a restaurant as yours:
    “..After some months, Tim visits a Dans le Noir establishment, where he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams). The two flirt in the darkness of the restaurant and afterwards, Mary gives Tim her phone number”
    source: http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/About_Time_(2013_film)

    ps: saw the trailing firefly thingee you did there missy, “out into the black” -> http://www.intotheblack.ca

    1. Cupertino Jay says:

      wikiwiki broken link fixit try (soorry):
      http://en.wikipedia.orG/wiki/About_Time_(2013_film)

  6. OK, so it took me a minute to pick up on the pictures. Because I kept thinking…there’s something wrong with the pictures. *facepalm*

  7. Mikel King says:

    I suspect that places like this are not safe if you have food allergies… ;-S

  8. masodo says:

    “Into The Black” – gotta love it! Thanks Jewel 😀

  9. Warren Liebold says:

    I have to admit I did some research before assuring myself that you weren’t pulling our collective leg. Thanks.

  10. joanna says:

    what a great post! so funny and i love the “pictures” and the firefly reference 🙂 thanks!

  11. Famin says:

    I think this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with you, Jewel! These “dark” restaurants are a pet peeve of mine. At least, if the primary reason for the gimmick is to heighten your appreciation of food (and taste). I can do that well enough by just closing my eyes (and do). Maybe I’m not adventurous enough to appreciate these restaurants!

    Although, I will say I like that the servers are all legally blind or visually impaired–I like that they have an advantage over seeing people for once. And I’m intrigued by the idea that the restaurant can spend more of its budget on food because decor and ambiance are so simple.

    I did love your blog though! I guess I’ll have to take your word for it that the food was good. 🙂

  12. Jason says:

    That sounds like a great food experience but mainly as I read the only thing that kept flashing in front of my eyes was your definition of dark. And that mental image kept bringing back memory of dark. That type of dark I actively try to avoid or get out of as quickly as possible. Truthfully dark, big spiders, vampires like from dusk til dawn and dark back seats in review mirror while I drive are top fears. Being that it was a meal in October I would say you captured a goolish meal of bootastic terror.

  13. chris says:

    I guess I can dig the concept of eating in the dark. It just reminds me of a time I needed to brush my teeth in a dark bathroom and put Preperation-H on the brush instead of toothpaste. Not a great experience…

  14. Kerim says:

    Without the sense of sight, the sense of taste is compounded. The food would have to be pretty darn good to pass that test. Looks like it did. Thanks for this one Jewel.

  15. andy says:

    I went there with my girlfriend and when she tried to romantically feed me without me knowing, I ended up getting a fork to the face. Turns out the food had fallen off and she hadn’t realised 🙁

  16. Laurent says:

    Bonjour, un petit message de félicitations, je viens de revoir la série SG-A, et je trouve que votre personnage est très attachant, le rôle vous va à merveille et c’est un plaisir d’avoir revu cette série. Comme vos collègues acteurs, vous avez su donner une âme à cette série et c’est bien dommage qu’elle n’est pas perdurée autant que SG-1. Je vois que vous êtes aussi fan de cuisine, mais rien n’égale la cuisine française (sans être vantard). Je n’ai pas pris la peine d’écrire en anglais, je suppose que vous parlez français et anglais 🙂 Merci à vous et au bonheur que vous avez su donner à vos fans et certainement tous ceux qui ont dû tomber amoureux de vous ! En espérant vous revoir dans d’autres téléfilms ou séries. Sorry for other’s here, if they don’t understand french 🙂 But it’s just a friendly message, and i hope so, the french cooking are the best in the world lol

  17. Justin says:

    If anything, I love cheese. Parmesan in particular. Goes well with just about anything. Soups, sammiches, pasta (of course), eggs, I could go on.
    Food’s a wonderful thing, really.

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