Dans Le Noir NYC: dining in the dark
- InsolentGourmet Apr 11, 2012 11:37 AM
Has anyone been to this?
Considering going. I can't imagine the food itself is top caliber (?) but I'm curious about the experience. Opinions and experiences?
So I went to Dans Le Noir this past Thursday night. It's only 6 weeks old here in NYC so they are still working out the kinks. When you get there, you are in a lounge and fill out a waiver, then check any light-emitting devices (phone, watch etc) into lockers downstairs. You list dietary restrictions to a staff member and choose one of four menus: green (veg), blue (seafood), red (meat), white (chef's surprise). Then a vision-impaired guide leads you into the dining room, you place your hand on his shoulder and follow him in. You stumble around your table and feel your way to you seat and the meal begins. There are 70 seats in the dining room and it is PITCH black - your sense of sight is literally turned off completely. You are served an app, main, and dessert without being told what it is. The dining room is full of chatter from other patrons, background music, just like a normal dining room. Except that the dishes and glasses are plastic to prevent breakage (don't wear nice clothes - you WILL spill food and/or wine on yourself). If you ever need to go to the restroom, you call over a guide and they escort you back out to the light.
After the meal you are led back out to the lounge, and shown a menu and photos of what you ate. You probably mis-guessed 50% or more of it (I thought gnocchi was a marshmallow, and veal was pork). You pay your tab and leave.
How is the food? While not being an haute gastronomic experience, it is definitely up to Manhattan standards and quite good. But remember that you are not really coming here for the food. The main reason to come here is to experience what it's like to be blind and perform a typical daily ritual - eating. You really learn alot, and the first 15-20 minutes can be very challenging and even stressful. The second reason you come here is to understand how interconnected taste is with sight. Things taste completely different when you can't see them. The third reason you come is for the food, which like I said was quite good and well executed.
I would recommend giving this place a shot, a very unique experience is had here, not something you would do all the time but maybe once or twice in a lifetime.
"The main reason to come here is to experience what it's like to be blind..." This brings me up short. Why? As they say in theater, what's my motivation? To be curious about what it's like to be blind is one thing, but what motivates people to combine that w/ what ought to be a pleasurable experience, and indeed one that caters to all the senses? I'm mildly perplexed.
That assumes you have a predefined expectation of having a pleasurable experience, or a predefined expectation of what defines one. If this were a typical dining experience and you were out for a "pleasurable" dinner, I would agree with you. But the point I am trying to make is that this experience wound up being much more than going out for dinner. This was tertiary. The primary and secondary eye-openers (pun intended) were as I recounted.
That being said, it was a pleasurable experience in that it was fun. The whole room was laughing as they clunked around in the dark, especially at the beginning. There was a sort of nervous energy going about and the servers were right there to laugh with the patrons.