Dining in the Dark

flyer117437546321881118158.jpg I recently had a very bizarre yet delicious experience of transcending into unknown territories. Black Café is a once in a life time dining sensation. The concept behind this unusual restaurant is for patrons to palpate as a blind person would. Dine as they do, envision as they do.

While waiting patiently for my unpunctual friends to arrive, I stood there scanning, which soon turned into drooling, over the scrumptious dessert pictures mounted on the glass window outside the restaurant. A wave of sympathy poured over me, for the blind that can never understand the power of pictures.

One of my amigos had finally graced me with her presence; we wasted no time in ordering a bottle of wine, while waiting for the third part, of our party, to appear.

Limited lighting and pink undertones seem to be the theme of the main area, also referred to as the ‘visual lounge.’ Clean, sophisticated, chic decor; funky black stools and suede black couches, accented with silver pillows completed the area.

Finally Ms. Fashionably-late had arrived without any excuses for her tardiness. The two read through the menu, as I asked Kent (the owner) a few questions about his restaurant.

The menu had an exceptional variety of drinkables; teas priced at 18 rmb, coffees 18-30rmb, juices 12-25rmb, beers 16-21rmb. The wine list offers house, sparkling, red or white priced at 178rmb per bottle or 38 per glass.

Meal-wise, there are two choices; to dine a la carte customers dine in the visual lounge. To have the ultimate dark dining experiences upstairs, one of three sets are available:

Set A: Chicken Breast (168rmb), Set B: Rib-eye steak (198rmb) or Set C: Cod Fish (238rmb).

All sets are accompanied by potatoes, veggies, soup, salad and a mystery dessert.

Oddly, the vegetarian meals cannot be preordered like the carnivore’s delight. Black Café cooks up a vegetarian set meal that is not listed on the menu, nor explained by staff. Herbivores are in for the real surprise. 

By the time, the three of us were escorted upstairs we realized we had overindulged on white wine. The friendly, English speaking Manager, Century first made us surrender all of our belongings into a locker. No cell phones, no electronics, no fire. This did not sit well with my chain smoking friend.

I became more and more curious to know what lies ahead.

We were then greeted by our blind fu wuyuan (waitress). She introduced herself and provided us with some basic instructions; stand in a line, single file, hold on to the shoulders of the person in front of you and pay attention to the left/right commands. The manager explained that the waitress would be standing by our table throughout the whole meal. If we were in need of anything, at any time, we simply ask. However, the waitress spoke very limited English, it worked out well that I could hold a basic conversation in Mandarin, in case of an emergency.

In through the curtains we go! Plunging into complete darkness, my eyes were jolted by the sudden change of environment. Incredibly loud voices could be heard from all angles of the pitch black corners. We were guided to our chairs, one friend was seated beside me; the other one across. The waitress took our hands and directed them to the cutlery and glasses. Now that we were settled in our seats, I had a second to think about how freakishly whimsical this whole situation was; not being able to see the person breathing beside or across me.

In the dark, you tend to dive right into a conversation. Ms. Fashionably-late was someone I was meeting for the first time, meeting in this type of environment was a great ice breaker.

Our starters had arrived. Even in the dark, my spoon managed to scoop up a mouth full of French onion soup and I always managed to taste it. My main course was not as easy to deal with. I didn’t bother picking up the cutlery, actually I couldn’t find it. I settled for the hand to mouth technique. I felt my way through the potatoes, veggies and the saucy chicken.

Each bite of was exceedingly satisfying than the last, or I may have felt this way because I was dining in a sightless environment.

Patrons that undergo this experience do get a glimpse into a world where four of your senses instinctively heighten when one is absent.

Black Cafe’s no eyes required motto is very fitting to the restaurant’s ambiance. The waiters and waitresses that are hired to work in the dining room are all visually impaired people.

As a parting gift, Black Cafe doles out funky, sleek, noir lighters. It must be their way of saying “sorry for the inconvenience of forbidding you to smoke inside our restaurant, we will now compensate you by encouraging the habit.”

The dining in the dark concept first started in Switzerland then emulated in Canada, the U.S and Australia. Soon China jumped on the bandwagon as locations opened up in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou among others. 

Food indeed tastes very new when your eyes penetrate the darkness. It’s a dream-like, culinary experience that’s worth the immediate confusion and will make you appreciate your next meal.  

Official site: http://www.blackcafe.com.cn/

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~ by deliciousnoize on December 27, 2007.

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