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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