O Noir, I Can’t See My Dinner

O Noir, I Can't See My Dinner

According to Wikipedia, there are only four restaurants in North America that feature a dark dining atmosphere, but I think they are missing a few. Toronto’s is called O Noir. Mister and I ate dinner in the dark with sightless waitstaff in a completely blackened room. The courses even have names like surprise appetizer, surprise main, and surprise wine.

It works like this–before you go into the dark, you go to a mostly darkened room and order your meal. You are told to remove watches and turn off your phone. Then you are escorted with a hand on your waiter’s shoulder and Mister’s hand on my shoulder, to your table. We waited for the rest of the diners to be seated in the room before we were served our food. They have several different dining rooms with different staff so the wait isn’t long, but it felt long in the dark. They give you water and a roll with a little butter packet which I used to butter my thumb. We proceeded through the courses from there until we were escorted out to pay in the light.

We were the first to be seated for dinner and it was quiet and black when our waiter left us to fumble around looking for our utensils, glasses, and side plates after giving us a spoken tour of our table. Before dinner was even served, one couple had to be escorted out because the woman was panicking and I can understand why.

If you are claustrophobic at all, dinner in the dark is a bad idea. If you didn’t realize you were claustrophobic before you got there, my advice is to close your eyes. That way you are in control of the dark and it doesn’t seem so scary. Once you get over the odd sensation of not being able to see a thing and your eyes never adjusting to the dark, it was quite fun to try and figure out what we were eating. I found myself in my head at one point wondering if the table was clean; if there was a standard of care in plating; if they had really heard me when I said I was allergic to mollusks. I had to give that up and trust that they didn’t want anyone sick because that would be bad for business. And, they have been in business for nine years.

My surprise appetizer was a plate of deep fried fishy bits, I think. (Gordon Ramsey would be proud.) It was all in fork size pieces and I cleaned my plate. I couldn’t see that it was clean, but thanks to the advice from a woman I met on the Edgewalk, I knew I had cleaned it. She told me to eat towards the centre of your plate. That turned out to be the absolute best strategy. I moved everything to the centre after every bite to ensure no spillage. Otherwise, I think I would have worn most of my entree or at least been embarrassed by the terrible mess I left on the table. (I’ll let that sink in.)

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  1. It’s kind of amazing that they could remain in business for nine years just by being a novelty. Besides the “surprise” food, could you order other stuff? Was it delicious or just good (or was it even good)? How did you not knock over your wine?!?!? Did anyone ever explain the purpose of the darkness? Or was it a “life lesson” on what it’s like being sightless. So many questions…..

    • So many answers… Food was just ok but it was good for the price. There was a menu to order from for the mains, wine and dessert. If you wanted an appie you had surprise vegetarian, surprise meat or surprise seafood to choose from. I had one hand on my wine until I finished it because Mister kept moving my water glass and that would have been ‘grounds’ if he’d moved the wine. No one explained the purpose but I think it is just novelty. It was definitely something you only need to do once.

  2. What a wonderful eye opener into the world of the sightless. Nice to see hubby too. So much fun to be had if you just trust. Xo

  3. Did your other senses kick in, or dinner would be too short a time to stop trying to use your sight? Fascinating really. I’d have to wear black!

  4. Great job. I tried dining At Noir. I was like the other lady that had to be escorted out. I couldn’t do it. I have a huge appreciation for the blind.

  5. You have to count me out on this one. I need to see what I am going to be putting in my mouth. It is an interesting concept though, for experiencing how the sightless eat. Kind of like the time I went to a parenting class when expecting my first child, and they had me put on a “pregnant” suit to simulate what my wife was dealing with. I had to pick up a pencil on the floor and it was quite comical. At least I could see the pencil I was trying to pick up.

    • That is funny that you had a suit on. They didn’t do that with Mister but I would have liked to see it.
      I’m sure the sightless are less of a mess. I think I’d be skinnier if I was sightless though. I’m not sure I like not knowing what was going in my mouth.

  6. It’s fun that the waitstaff is sightless. That reminds me that I heard some thriller writer (I think it might have been Tom Clancy) included a detail in one of his books that the cafeteria workers at the CIA are blind. The CIA contacted him and asked, “How did you know that?” He said, “It just seemed logical.”
    I’m also reminded of John Milton: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
    It’s annoying though that they don’t tell you what you ate.

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