Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dining in the Dark

by Cindy

Jeff and I recently enjoyed a one-of-a-kind dinner.  We had a reason to celebrate so off we went - how can you resist this advertisement?  “From a pitch-black dining room to waiters with night vision goggles, Noire brings you the thrill of dining in the dark.”

The advertisement goes on to say, “Here’s where your senses come to life as you explore an exotic gourmet menu full of sumptuous surprises and flavours like never before. To make this unforgettable Dubai dining experience truly rewarding, we’re donating 10% of the proceeds to Sightsavers, the international charity organization aiming at combating blindness in developing countries.”

The event was an Italian-themed five course evening with Italian wine pairings.  That was all we knew.  We didn't know what foods would be served nor what wines would be paired. We found out everything at the end of the meal.

The entire evening is limited to 30 people.  Upon arrival there was a brief explanation of the process for dinner.   We were asked if we had any allergies, assured them that we didn't, and so we were ready to go.

When it was time to enter the dining room, a hostess, who was wearing night vision goggles, asked us if we are scared of the dark.  If you answered “yes” to that question, I am not sure what they would have done!  She had me put my hand on her shoulder and Jeff’s hand on my shoulder as we entered.  Jeff and I thought there would be at least a little bit of light but there was nothing.  No sliver of light, no nothing.  You couldn't see your hand in front of your face – not even one inch away from your eyes.  Dark.  Pitch black.  You can’t be afraid of the dark! 

After the evening was over, we tried out the night vision goggles for a picture.
During the dinner, this is what the waitstaff were wearing.

To seat us she guided my hand around the chair so I could tell which way it was facing and told me to sit with my hands in my lap while the other guests were seated.  Once everyone was in place they had us find our napkins right in front of us, directed us to the forks on the left and the bread plate beyond that.  On the right, the spoon and knife and the water glass (plastic) beyond that.  When wine was served, the server would ask us to reach out our hand and he or she would place the glass (again, plastic) in our hand.

Our appetizer  was already on the table and they directed our hands towards that and told us we could go ahead and eat.  They told us it was a canape and that it was already sitting on a spoon (kind of like the large, porcelain spoons sometimes used at Asian restaurants with soup).  The spoon was constructed so that it rested flat on the table, not spilling its contents.  Jeff and I thought it tasted like some kind of pasta but we knew that pasta shouldn’t be the first course when eating Italian so we were a bit stumped.  This was paired with a white wine and Jeff and I were able to guess the grape variety on this particular tasting.

The idea of the whole evening is to heighten your senses.  I would say that generally that’s what happened.  When you have no idea what you are eating, you do seem to keep it in your mouth longer to try to figure out what it might be. 
The second course came and you could tell it was a hot dish from the smells.  It was served in a shallow bowl, like a pasta bowl.  We could also tell it contained seafood.  You wanted to get close to it to smell it but you couldn't judge distances so you were afraid that you might put your nose right into your dish!  It was all really quite strange. 

Be sure you are picturing this correctly:  They have placed food in front of you.  Only because I can reach up with my hands can I discern that it is a bowl.  I have no idea what is in the bowl so I don't know if I should pick up a fork, a spoon, a knife or what.  I know I am eating Italian so now I start to think if this is some kind of string pasta, how on earth am I going to eat this!!!  I decide to pick up the spoon as that seems to go with the idea of having a bowl. 

We figured out it was shrimp with some scallops.  The sauce we couldn't quite figure out.  Jeff thought it was a butter sauce, I didn't think it was rich enough for that.  I was betting on a broth of some kind. 

It was helpful to have the food in a bowl so we could scrape it onto the utensil.  Remember, it is pitch black dark so you can't even tell if you have food on your utensil!  More than once I brought my cutlery to my mouth with no food on it.

The third course was a sorbet (we guessed raspberry, but it was passion fruit blended with several other fruits - how were we supposed to get that??).  The fourth course Jeff correctly guessed was veal - although we had assumed it was paired with some sort of mashed potatoes, when in fact the mushy stuff we were tasting was actually pureed beans.  Fifth and finally, dessert was a total mystery to us, but we found out later is was a custard with fresh fruit. 

Out of the five courses, I think Jeff and I guessed three of them.  Out of the wines, we I think we also guessed three out of five.  One was a varietal we hadn't heard of before.  The food and pairings were very enjoyable and I would say that in some ways we did experience heightened senses.

If you ever get a chance to do something like this – go for it!  It was so much fun and not like anything we have done before.

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