Dining in the Dark (O.Noir Review)

On Sunday evening, Evan and I had a double date with our good friends Emily and Corey.

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That is two separate pictures next to each other, to clarify. Also, the one of Emily and Corey on the left was taken with Cork’s iPhone 5s and the one on the right was taken with my old but trusty iPhone 4, so just some comparison for ya.

It was Emily who suggested O.Noir aka dining in the dark (at Church and Wellesley) and I seemed to recall hearing of it before but not really paying attention, so if you are new to the concept like I was I will tell you, you dine in the DARK. Not just with the lights off, I mean totally, 100%, black out dark. Zero light whatsoever.

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The restaurant is in a windowless basement, and promised to be a sensual dining experience. Since you can’t see, your other senses (importantly TASE!) are heightened.

I was reading reviews before we arrived at the restaurant and many people were saying that dining in the dark was a life changing experience. Also, and this is something I really like, the entire waitstaff actually is legally blind.

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When you walk into the restaurant at first, you enter the bar area, and while it is dim, it is not yet dark. You place your order in the light when you can actually see the menu. The four of us all got the prix fixe menu which included a starter, entree and dessert for $39.95.

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Emily, Corey and Evan all ordered the filet mignon for their entree, but I decided to live dangerously and order the surprise entree. I figured that I like pretty much everything and I don’t have any allergies, so why not. As long as they didn’t bring me a steaming pile of crap I figured I’d be fine (though I might not even know what it was…) I also told the servers that I would not be unhappy if my entree wasn’t fish. I like fish, but I don’t think I like surprise fish. I certainly don’t like surprise fish when I am hoping my surprise is not going to be fish (it wasn’t fish).

We were instructed to turn our phones completely off, get rid of any watches that held light, and to ditch our glow sticks before entering the dining area. Alright just kidding about the glow sticks, but we did laugh later at the idea of someone bringing glow sticks in there and how big of a jerk move that would be.

To get into the dark dining room we had to follow our server (whose name was Tracey) single file while holding onto the left shoulder of the person in front of us. I held onto Tracey, Evan held onto me, Emily onto Evan, Corey onto Emily. It was like a blind, ridiculously slow and shuffley conga line. You actually enter another black room before the BLACK room so that the door to the main part of the restaurant can shut before you open the door to the BLACK room. They are really serious about not letting any light in.

Shortly after we entered into the pitch black we had some minor trouble in paradise… Emily is pretty claustrophobic and is not a fan of tight spaces, so as she entered the darkness a feeling of panic came over her and she immediately noped back out of there without us.

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I didn’t know what happened since I was at the front of the conga line, but Evan just said “We lost Emily…” so we conga’d back out and found her in the bar.

I guess pitch black can trigger an almost panic attack because you really cannot see your surroundings at all. I don’t know how to explain it, but I even had a feeling of anxiety for the first few minutes, and that sort of thing does not usually bother me. I thought of Emily when I was first reading reviews about this place, but I thought since she suggested it she would be A-okay. She was A-okay though. Back in the bar she was all “I’m fine! You guys go ahead without me! I’ll just go find some street meat or something,” but obviously we were not going to leave her behind. With the help of Tracey we ended up convincing her to come back, and Tracey brought her in separately one-on-one after she got the rest of us seated. Once Emily was sitting down at the table with us she said she felt more comfortable. She also said she kept her eyes closed most of the time and that really helped. It didn’t really matter anyway since it looked the same in there whether your eyes were open or closed.

You literally could not see your hand in front of your face. Evan was seated right beside me and I could not even make out his outline. It was just black. I could hear everyone’s conversations clearly from across the restaurant, like they were right next to me, like my other senses really were heightened! We had a lot of “Corey, stop touching me under the table!” (from Evan), etc. as we were getting settled.

We used the time before our drinks and food came to familiarize ourselves with the table and where everything was. I was really concerned with knocking over my drink (since that is something I would do in a completely lit restaurant), but our table was HUGE so I set up a little drink area to the left of me and I never knocked it.

I think the trickiest part was buttering my bread. I couldn’t see the butter, I couldn’t tell if it was on my knife, and then I couldn’t see the bread I was trying to butter. Not easy, but I got ‘er done. For my starter I ordered the roasted red peppers and seasonal vegetables with goat cheese (because GOAT CHEESE), and it was seriously delicious. I have no idea how much was on my plate, but I was able to get it all into my mouth. This is no easy task when you can’t see what you’re doing. I would go to stab a vegetable on my fork and come back with nothing. Getting the food to my mouth once it was on my fork was no problem at all though, I always knew where my mouth was, so eventually I started manually putting the vegetables onto my fork with my other hand. And sometimes I just ate directly with my fingers. What, no one could see me! Tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing.

When my surprise entree came, it looked like this.

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So that looked promising. But…it was really good! I figured out the green beans, cherry tomatoes and quinoa on my plate, and I was 100% positive the meat I was eating was steak. I was sure it was steak. Would have bet my life I was eating steak. But when Tracey came over and asked me what I thought I was eating and I said steak she said “NOPE!” I honestly had no other guesses. Evan tried it and also said steak. But apparently it was pork. It was really good pork I guess, since I thought for sure I was eating high quality steak. I again cleaned my entire plate (and I was really tempted to lick my plate since no one could see me). I should mention they pre-cut the meat for you like you’re a toddler so you don’t have to struggle with a crazy steak knife and cut your fingers off. No bones to worry about either.

I asked Evan if I could try a piece of his filet mignon, and that went like this:

Evan – Sure, I’ll put a piece on my fork for you.
Me – Thanks… (takes fork from him, eats bite) I think that was a potato.
Evan – Oh sorry, here.
Me – Thanks… (takes fork, eats bite) That was a green bean.
Evan – Oh sorry, here.
Me – (takes fork, eats bite)

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Me – EVAN, THAT WAS BUTTER.
Evan – Oh sorry…

But no one could tell if I was stealing food from their plates!

I ordered the chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert and it was DELICIOUS, but tricky to eat as well. I wanted to get a good cake to ice cream ratio on each spoonful and that was really difficult to do. I again had to use my fingers to just feel around and make sure my cake and ice cream were making it onto my spoon okay. My hands were clean I promise… but when I got out of there my fingers were all chocolatey.

Everyone else got the surprise dessert and it was different types of cheesecake. They all said those were good.

I really think they need to invest in some infrared video cameras in the dark dining room because I’m sure people just look hilarious trying to eat while not being able to see. I think I was sitting there the whole time with a crazy-eyed expression because I thought if my eyes were open wide enough I would be able to see some sort of light. Alas, no.

After about two hours in the dark, we again followed Tracey in a weird, slow conga line back out into the main restaurant.

This was definitely an experience I won’t forget! These dark dining restaurants seem to be in every large city, so I would definitely recommend checking one out if it’s near you. I’m not sure if I would go again for a while, but it’s a different thing to do at least once.

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16 responses to “Dining in the Dark (O.Noir Review)

  1. That is very interesting and kind of hilarious. I’ve never heard of anything like that before… Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’d try it out to say I did it but I’m not sure I’d love the pitch blackness of it all. I’m might not even bother with a fork either. What’s good enough for the Indians is good enough for me! (Or whoever it is that eats with their fingers all the time.) By the way, your surprise meal looks delicious.

    • I kinda liked the pitch blackness more than I thought I would. I really liked that no one could see me. Really good atmosphere for harassing people.
      It was medieval people who eat with their hands. I know this because if you go to Medieval times you don’t get utensils. Ethiopians I think also.
      It was delicious!

  3. Wow. That’s fascinating! And i love that you ate with your fingers. You’d be silly not to though when no one can see you. You should have licked your plate too 😉

  4. How cool! I wonder if they have something like that in Dallas? I will have to check for sure! Glad Emily made it back in to eat, I can imagine that has to be freaky at first!

  5. I went a couple of years ago for a friend’s birthday and we kept getting in trouble for being loud. I found it really hard to control my voice when I couldn’t figure out where other people were. I got surprise dessert, that was as crazy as I got. I know when my mom and her bf went he got surprise entree and thought it was one thing and he was way off in his guess too. It’s hard to tell! Like you said, it isn’t somewhere you’d go often, I’d probably only go again if I knew someone who hadn’t been before.

    • Haha. That’s funny because when my friends and I are somewhere and anyone is getting in trouble for being loud it’s usually us…but I did find that people were generally very loud in there. And I so know what you mean. I felt like I was yelling to talk to people across from me.
      Yep, I’d totally go again with a newbie.

  6. I want to go so badly!

  7. I swear that just the thought of being in the dark like this makes me want to hyperventilate. I would have “noped’ out of there too!

  8. Pingback: Dining in the Dark (O.Noir Review) O.Noir Toronto

  9. Nancy McCartney

    A friend of ours had gone and shared his experience with us. Said it was so unique and he was glad he went but doesn’t feel he needs to go again. Was difficult to imagine unless you experience it yourself!

  10. I guess it’s not the same as eating a sandwich in the DC darkroom huh? I wanted to take my sister to this place last fall but she didn’t want to drive to Toronto, but it’s something I’d try… although the anxiety thing may be an issue for me too!