We entered the restaurant, sat down, and were promptly served our entrées. The ambiance of the room and its interior decor were a bit different to anything that I had experienced before. I was seated at a table with two people that I had never met before.
If I had to pick my most unusual dining experience, this would be it. I don’t usually spend 50€ to share an intimate table with total strangers while eating with my hands, but Dans le Noir? is all about the idea that if we take away our ability to see, our other sensory organs become more sensitive and important. The dining room is completely void of light, so it was impossible to make out even the faintest outlines of the tables and chairs, let alone what we were eating. For obvious reasons, we required assistance in getting to the table and sitting down. Waiting on the tables, and providing assistance in navigating the dining room, was a completely blind woman. She asked us to stand in a line with a hand on the shoulder in front, and then guided us to the dining room, seating us individually. It was a little scary having so little control, but the waitress did a great job in making it an easy and smooth process.
A big part of the Dans le Noir? experience is the social aspect, and sharing a meal with people that we had never met before. We were seated at a table with an English-speaking couple. It was an unusual, albeit fun, experience to be dining with complete strangers in the dark. We briefly met before going into the room, however the vague image in my head of their faces slowly began to change and become fuzzy as I forgot what they looked like.
The real fun started when it came to eating. We ordered a “three course degustation with a glass of wine”, and that was as much as we knew. We had no idea what would be on our plates and in our glasses, but they did assure us that it wouldn’t be anything too out-there (no cat or dog, I think she said). The first course came out and the waitress gave a very vague explanation of what was on the plate: “There is something in bowl, and in the bowl is a spoon. The bowl is on a plate with other things”. She then told us that there was cutlery on the table, however it would be perfectly acceptable to use our hands if we so desired. At first I think we all stuck to our table norms and tried using cutlery, but it quickly became apparent that fingers were the way to go. Without the ability to see, we relied so much more on the ability to feel and touch, in both trying to identify what exactly we were about to put into our mouths, and also in actually navigating it to our mouthes without making a mess (a mess was inevitable, though).
The main course and dessert proceeded in a similar way. As we each ate the food we discussed what we thought it was. Beef or lamb? What kind of vegetable? Is this some kind of Spanish specialty, or are they just terribly made cannelloni? (Unfortunately they turned out to be extremely poorly made cannelloni, with the pasta barely cooked and the filling dry). In some cases we came to a consensus, however in others we would debate, or have no idea at all. We were also each served a glass of wine, without prior knowledge of whether it would be red, white, or rosé.
At the end of the meal we were guided back outside of the dining room by our blind waitress. It was a bit of an absurd experience now seeing each other face to face, after having spoken in the dark for so long and for the first time, and comparing how they looked to the image that I had in my mind. A man at the restaurant came to us with some photos of the dishes to show us what we had been eating, but first he asked us to tell him what we thought we had eaten. In most cases we were correct, or pretty close, however in others we were completely off. In once instance what people were suggesting as beef or pork (although I wasn’t convinced of this, because I could taste something a bit fishy. I thought it was a pork and cuttlefish meatball, fitting with the Barcelona mar i muntanya cuisine) turned out to be a fillet of swordfish.
I cannot doubt that it was an interesting night, and certainly different to any restaurant I had been to before. Would I ask them to cater for my birthday party? Probably not. The food was pretty average, and quite poor in some cases (quasi-raw cannelloni shells, case in point). But that is not what the restaurant is about. It is about giving us a different experience, and showing us how much we rely on our sense of vision, and most importantly about providing us with a fun night in a social atmosphere. I would absolutely do it again in the future, at one of the other Dans le Noir? restaurants around the world, where they would hopefully serve some different dishes for us to guess.