First, let’s put this right out on the table: I am not an adventurous eater. When I go to a restaurant, I can be counted on to order the same thing every time. It only varies depending on the type of place we’re dining at.
Boring. I know. So the idea of dining in the dark – first permanently opened in 2004 under the name of Dans Le Noir (French for “In the Dark”) in Paris and recently opened in New York – was surprisingly intriguing. Still, given a rather disastrous experience in a restaurant I’ll call “Murphy’s Law” – whose motto is “anything that can go wrong will” – I’d have some hesitation about making a reservation.
The Dans Le Noir restaurants in New York, Paris, London, Barcelona and Saint Petersburg, Russia, as well as elsewhere across the globe, are staffed by blind waiters who guide you to your table. Then you have a “surprise” menu that offers one for meat-eaters, one for fish and seafood diners, one for vegetarians and a fourth that is truly a surprise.
“Guests can choose only among a limited choice of surprise menus. The idea is that each guest should not know exactly what he or she will be eating…just the general category. It’s all about the flavors, the textures and the seasonings. It is an old principle often used in the industry, called ‘blind tasting,’ ” according to the Dans Le Noir website.
That’s where my experience eating at “Murphy’s Law” rushes in. “Are you sure? Something new?” Concern is deeply etched on its face.
What happened? Well, the night was an aberration, to be sure. We’d dined there before – no problems. This night was – to put it kindly – an off night.
First, my daughter, Danielle, ordered a steak. She asked if it could be sent back to the kitchen, as it was very rare. The waitress informed her that the heavy abundance of red juices she saw on her plate “was just the lighting.” Believe me, the meat was so rare it was practically galloping off the table ready to return to pasture. (She is now a vegetarian. I’m sure this experience had nothing to do with her change in eating habits.)
Then, we noted that the sweet potatoes were undercooked as well. So they also were dutifully returned to the kitchen and then back to our table. But the waitress at Murphy’s Law got the orders mixed up and gave mine to my husband.
How do I know? Mine had fork marks in it from where I taste-tested it. Thank goodness we’re all family. It could have been worse.
As a gag, I’m sure, we saw someone lick one of the rolls and return it to the basket at their table. By New York state law, restaurants are supposed to throw out unused bread. Apparently, that was not the case at Murphy’s. We learned later from a family friend who worked there that leftover rolls from one table are frequently recycled to other tables.
Yikes! How unsanitary. We never returned.
So, should one disastrous experience influence all of my dining decisions? Absolutely not. Time to stop being skittish. It’s comforting to have all five senses engaged when dining. But how deliciously decadent to savor your meal sans lighting. Already Dans Le Noir has drawn more than 1 million people to its restaurants.
To them, I say, “Bon appetit!” (“Enjoy your meal!”) Go for the gusto. Someday, I might be there at a table near you.
To learn more about Dans Le Noir in New York and to book a reservation, click on this link:
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