Tuesday 13 November 2012

The Blond discovers: a taste of darkness - Dans Le Noir?

I feel very uncomfortable, slightly dizzy and disorientated. My waitress is helping me to sit down at my table. I can hear the others, shouting at each other, like it would help them to see more.
Once sat down, I hold to my cutlery and glass and this helps me a little to feel grounded again.
I've never thought that darkness can be that dark!

Yes, Dans Le Noir? is another type of culinary experience.
The founders of the restaurant thought that taking away your sight for the time of your meal would awaken other senses and make you appreciate the smells and the tastes even more. We all close our eyes when we try something especially good, so why not eating in a very dark room? By 'dark' I mean .... oh, I don't even know how to describe it! Turn off the light and close your eyes - this is how dark it is. Nothing can actually prepare you for it.
When I first heard about it, I wanted to go there straight away. I mean, how cool it must be to eat sophisticated French food in a dark, not worrying about which fork to use, and where no one can see that you've just dropped some of that delicious mushroom sauce on your top? Hell yeah! This was a place for me!
I was so excited about the whole thing that between different menu options I chose the 'chef's surprise', so basically I knew I was going to eat, but had no idea what it was going to be.  The other options have the same concept: you choose either vegetarian, meat or fish, but you still don't know what exactly you are going to have on your plate.

The front bar, where you can have a drink before you go into the main restaurant 

Dans Le Noir employs only blind waiters and you depend on them completely, especially if you've had too much to drink and really want a wee-wee.
Our waitress, called Lizza, was very patient and polite with us. She warned us every time she placed something in front of us, and slowly explained how to pour water and wine into our glasses.

You are led through this dark corridor into the restaurant 

So, how do you eat when you can't see anything? Well, you first try to find your plate, you check the food with your fingers and then try to put it on your fork. Simple! I also found out that it's hard to eat with a fork AND knife. You can't feel your food with the knife as it's heavier, so I ate with my fork AND my fingers (oh what the hell, no one could see me anyway!)
During the whole meal I was thinking 2 things: 'It's really f* dark' and What am I actually eating?' I didn't enjoy the food that much. I think I would have if I could see it. The starter was meaty, had peppercorns and some tomatoes. This turned out to be a salmon tartare. I had thought the whole idea was to heighten my sense of smell, so why didn't I smell that there was something fishy on my plate?
The main was rice, with mushrooms and beef, which was actually a piece of steak, an ox cheek and a crocodile (yes, a crocodile!) I tried to cut the meat, but of the reason mentioned above, I could not and ended up stuffing whole big chunks of it into my mouth (luckily the room was dark, hey?)
I didn't have desserts, but one of my friends kept putting big pieces of cheesecake from his portion into my hand, encouraging me to try it, and this was the best part of the meal.

You can see what you've had when you're back in the bar

Another thing I found strange was that people shouted at each other. They didn't talk in a normal way. They behaved like they were in a pub with a very loud music on. That and the fact that I had my eyes wide open, trying to see at least a shadow of a person sitting next to me, tired me out. I actually had a headache and felt a relief when Lizza came to take us back to the lit front bar.

Did I enjoy my dinner? Of course I did! Jay Rayner, The Guardian's food critic, called the food at the Dans Le Noir gruesome. I don't know what Mr Rayner thinks is nice food, but the one I've had at the Dans was fine, tasty in its own dark way (even the crocodile). The restaurant is an experience and you go there just for that, to see how it is not to see anything, and to make a small mess on your plate.

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1 comment:

  1. oh, this is something I need to try out!