Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Close your Eyes

Close your eyes.  Now place your hands over your eyes.  This is the complete darkness that you feel when eating at Dans le Noir NYC.  It is a dining experience unlike any other.

Boyfriend and I spent the weekend in the city, a present from me to him this Christmas.  The weekend included dinner at Dans le Noir NYC.  Both BF and I had heard of this restaurant before, friends have gone and tried to explain their nights, I read as much as possible before went entered the doors.  Nothing really prepared us for the night ahead.

El restaurant

Dans le Noir NYC is located a little off the beaten track in Midtown Manhattan.  Yes, there are quiet areas of Midtown.  Located on 38th street, between 7th and 8th avenues, the restaurant is unassuming with a black sign and dark windows.  Our reservation was for 6:00pm, we hoped dinner wouldn't take too long because we had theater tickets.

You enter the restaurant through the lighted bar area.  You can get yourself a drink before you head into the dining room, you might need it.  The Dans le Noir staff checked us in, showed us the "menu" and had us sign a waiver.  Yes, a waiver.  And yes, I put menu in quotations.

You don't really get a menu, you get an idea of what you might be eating.  There are four options - the White menu (anything goes), the Red menu (for meat eaters), the Blue menu (for seafood lovers) and the Green menu (for the vegetarians).  I chose to be adventurous and went with the white menu.  Boyfriend isn't a fan of seafood and decided to go with the red menu.

The Lighted Bar

With all of the preparation complete, we met our head waiter - Sam.  Sam (and every waiter working at Dans le Noir) was blind.  He lined us up two by two and had us hold onto the shoulder of the person in front of us.  Sam lead us into the pitch black dining room, he sat us down in our chairs and gave us a tour of our place settings.  Right away, someone lost their knife.

The room was so inky black, there was no difference between keeping your eyes open or closed.  Waving my hand in front of my face, looking to all corners of the room, there was nothing but black.  All the plates and cups were plastic, which was good, because things were falling on the floor.  Our biggest challenge was first, passing the bread basket and filling our water glasses.  I managed to locate a tasty morsel of bread and fill my glass without soaking my lap.


BF and I were seated in the center of the oblong table and we knew no one else at our table.  When dining in the dark with six strangers, you get to know them quickly.  You are seated very close to one another and everyone is yelling.  Apparently when you lose your sense of sight, you start speaking very, very loudly.  BF and I aren't really yellers and I found myself wondering if he was still at the table!

Dinner was brought out in three courses, the starter, main course and dessert.  The women at the table had all ordered the white menu, the men all got the red.  I guess women are adventurous eaters and men like to eat meat.  I found it helpful to be sitting next to someone who was eating the same meal that I was.  We were able to compare thoughts on what we were actually eating.

The menus for the restaurant change every few weeks, so I don't want to describe my meal precisely for those that are headed to NYC soon.  It's supposed to be a surprise!  What I can tell you is this, I had several things that I have never eaten before.  Did you know that I've never had a beet before?  My started consisted of a tomato and beet salad with a portion of some sort of red meat.  I don't generally eat beef, so I couldn't differentiate the red meats in the dark.  All I know, it was delicious.

As Sam cleared our starter plates and brought out the main courses, the room started to fill with rich aromas.  I leaned over the plate and tried to determine what was in store.  Other than the hint of meat and seafood, I wasn't able to discern the dish.  As a group, we located a crab cake, some more red meat and a risotto.  A unique sort of surf and turf.  Eating the meal though was a little difficult.

The presentation of the meal was completely lost on us diners, as we couldn't see the food in front of our faces.  In fact we had some trouble locating the food on the plate.  Several times during the course of the dinner, I brought an empty fork to my mouth.  Mmmm, air, delicious and just what I wanted.  Your hands become quite useful when dining in the dark, be sure you've washed them!

Dessert was the same for all menus, so we shared the experience and a table.  I kept hearing "I found some strawberries" or "Hey, there's a chocolate something on here!" and "I think this is ice cream!" (It wasn't).  Dessert was a series of simple and obvious flavors.  I have to imagine the summer dessert is filled with amazingly flavorful fruits.

Once we were finished with dessert, there was an overwhelming desire to get out of the dark.  Everyone was ready to be able to see again, after only seventy-five minutes in the dark.  After the leave the dining room, being lead by our great waiter Sam, the soft lighting of the bar was even too bright.  We were given a look at the menu that we just enjoyed.  Remember all that beef I had?  Well none of it was actually beef.  The menu held nothing creepy or strange.  There was lamb, venison, poussin, crab, bison.  Apparently there was some fois gras on my main course plate, I never found it. 

If you are taking a trip to New York City (or Barcelona, London, St. Petersburg or Paris) and have a sense of adventure, you should get a reservation for Dans le Noir.  Personally, I thought it was quite the experience.  While BF and I wouldn't go back there for dinner on our own, we would certainly bring visiting family and friends, just so they can try to get food in their mouth in the dark.

Photos courtesy of the Dans le Noir website.  There wasn't really anything to take pictures of in the restaurant, because it was completely pitch black! 
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