Dining in the Dark

By Judy Berman

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:


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo credit: filet mignon (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

  1. This experience at Murphy’s Law sounds awful! But I would love to try Dining in the Dark though. I may be going on a trip to Israel in the summer, and that’s one of the things in the agenda.

    1. To be fair, we’d had a few wonderful experiences at “Murphy’s Law.” But this one really turned us off. Dining in the Dark does sound like a tasty adventure to follow up on. Enjoy your trip.

  2. Since we’re on a tight budget, I thought we might try this at home. However, the thought of our kids serving us whatever they want in the dark, was too scary to consider.

  3. Hello. In the interest of full disclosure, allow me to introduce myself. I am the Assistant General Manager at Dans le Noir ? New York. Have no fear. All of our managers and chefs hold New York City Qualifying Certificates in Food Protection, and will meticulously maintain a fully HACCP compliant restaurant. Dans le Noir? fully understands and respects the concerns of our guests regarding food safety. Those are our concerns as well.

    As mentioned in the original post, we have served over one million guests at our Dans le Noir ? restaurants, spas and special events, which have been sponsored throughout the world by our sister organization, Ethik Event.

    Our track record is strong, and we are very proud never to have had a serious security or health related incident. Because of the unique environment in which we operate, our entire staff is trained in food safety and allergy information, responsible alcohol service, and emergency safety procedures. The health and safety of our guests is our First Priority.

    Release your fear and join us for dinner, or if you’re not ready to jump into the dark just yet, visit our beautiful new, fully lighted, modern-industrial lounge, serving Premium wine and spirits beginning every afternoon until midnight. THE after-work lounge in the garment district.

    Don’t be afraid of the dark!

    DANS LE NOIR ? NEW YORK · OPENING FEBRUARY 2012 · 246 W. 38th Street, NY, NY 10018

    1. Glad to hear from you and thanks for commenting on my post. The points you mentioned will surely ease anyone’s concerns about a dining in the dark experience. I’ve heard lots of good comments about your restaurants and wish you well on your expansion.

      1. Impressive…that you should get a comment from the restaurant! Way to go, Judy! 🙂 They might offer you a free dinner…don’t you think? 😉

    1. That would be a c-o-o-l site, I’m sure. Having left the wintry blasts of Central New York behind in 1999, I’m not too anxious to return to the fr-ree-zing, icy weather. Thanks for writing and for the smile.

      1. We stayed at the Ice Hotel a few years ago. It was definitely a great experience in the sense that it’s something everyone should do once. Once is enough though 🙂

        What we did love were the day out trips we did. Lovely husky rides through miles and miles of snowy scenery and snow mobile rides were among our favourites.

  4. Came across Dans Le Noir a while ago. So much of the dining experience is to do with sight, I’m really intrigued by the idea of eating in darkness. It’s something we plan to do in the near future.

    1. Now, I’m intrigued by the Ice Hotel. Two votes for a place I’m only vaguely familiar with is enough to prompt me to check it out. As for Dans Le Noir, I really love French food. Let me know how your experience turns out. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting.

  5. Wow! Now that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t think I’d do a repeat performance, especially when there are so many great restaurants to choose from…globally. But good for you…
    for stepping outside the box. I’m also a creature of habit…same driving route…same dish at a restaurant…same hubby (ha, ha)…

    …i need a change of scenery…not!!! 😉

    1. I also am a creature of habit, but every once in awhile I surprise myself. Haven’t been to Dans Le Noir yet … yet. We went to Alaska (to see the Northern Lights) and to Costa Rica (to see its environmental wonders) – both on a whim and were delighted by our adventure. So, there’s no telling where I/we will land. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      As to your other comment about the possibility of a free meal, I’d have to turn down that offer. I might go on my own dime, but I feel it would affect the integrity of my writing if I accepted any type of monetary exchange or gift.

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