On Thursday evening, five of my close friends and I went to dine at O.Noir, the only restaurant in Toronto where you dine in the dark (the other location is in Montreal).
The concept of eating in the dark is intriguing, while we tend to rely on smell, taste and sight when we eat, the belief is that your other senses are heightened when we can’t see what’s on the plate. If you’re a picky eater like me, this concept can be a little scary.
As well, it gives you a chance to experience what is like to be blind as the wait staff are all legally blind. The fact that they are able to guide diners into the dark room with ease is what astounds me. It goes to show that regardless of physical disability; whether it is visual impairment, hearing impairment or mobility, they are more able-bodied than the able-bodied.
O.Noir is only opened for dinner service and at set times. We reserved for the 8:30 pm service and was asked to arrive early. We waited a large dimly-light area where orders were taken. You have a choice of ordering a prix-fixe two course meal or a three course meal. Each course includes a surprise as a choice.
I decided to not choose the surprises, figuring they would have cheese in them. Two of my friends ordered the surprise for all three course, and two of the three had cheese.
When it came time to go into the dining room, we lined up with our left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front and was guided by our waiter, Dave who was very helpful by telling us to watch our right side for doors, etc. There is a small room between the waiting area and dining area, which is to act as a buffer to prevent any light from entering the dining area. Needless to say, the moment we entered the dining room, it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything at all and feared I was going to bump into something as we were guided to our table.
Once seated, my goal of the night was to not spill a thing, or get food on my clothes.
For the appetizer, I ordered the grilled O.Noir octopus with olive oil and lime. There was mixed green and pieces of octopus. While the octopus was cut into pieces, the dish was a little difficult to eat as majority of the time, I got either salad on the fork, or nothing. Table manners aside as no one can see, I used my hand to eat.
For the main, I got the pasta with light tomato sauce and vegetables. Just ordinary penne pasta with a lot of ground pepper. While it was easier to eat (okay, I did get pasta on my cheek a few times), it was more sauce and penne than anything. Very passable dish.
For dessert, I got dark chocolate mousse with cocoa powder. It was good, but too sweet.
Overall, it was a fun experience. Being in complete darkness in an unfamiliar environment was interesting and strange, having to relying on touch to be aware of my surrounding. However, the food is lacklustre at best. There’s plenty of opportunity to be creative with the flavours, to give it a more sensory experience. Unfortunately, you won’t really find it here.
620 Church St.