As we walked through the door of the dining area, our server first; Riele’s hands on his shoulders; my hands on her shoulders, the darkness surrounded us completely. Listening to the pleasant voice of our server Gabriel we were led to a small table, where one a time we were guided to our seats, across from one another.
You see, this restaurant is O’Noir – a restaurant where the entire dining experience happens in the dark. Now I’m not talking about kinda dark – your night vision kicks in after a few seconds kinda dark, I’m talking utter and complete, you don’t need your vision what so ever pitch black. Our orders had already been taken so the first thing our server did was bring our drinks. We had to place both our water and our soft drinks against the edge of the wall, so there was reduced chance of a spill. No cell phones, no lights, No reading menus, no visual distractions anywhere. As I sat across from my friend in the dark, it struck me what an innovative and important concept this restaurant contained. By removing all of the visual distractions true conversation is possible – there’s nothing else to focus on but the tone, volume, vocabulary, and audio texture of the person you’re dining with. It also puts into perspective how much communication occurs visually. In addition, the darkness enhances the flavors of the food that you eat.
It was such a great experience, one of my favorite parts is that when you are placing your order (in dim lighting before you enter dining area) for starter, appetizer or dessert, you are allowed to order “surprise” items that are not contained on the menu. Eating the surprise in the dark is absolutely terrifying, however they ask you for your dietary preferences / allergies, and for me my surprise dessert tasted like adventure. There is another personal component to this restaurant, and it’s the fact that all of the servers are legally blind. It’s personal because my birth mom is blind, and I have memories of interacting with her and not understanding how she could function without her sight. I believe this restaurant is building empathy in those who choose to put themselves into such a place. It’s hard to eat when you don’t know where your food is, hard not to knock dishes over and bathroom breaks or travelling to/from the table in any capacity is difficult and requires assistance. The experience teaches humility. And courage. I will not forget what a fun and educational and delicious experience it all was, I’ll definitely be back! O’Noir – creating compassion and presentness one dark dining experience at a time.