You’ve probably seen that one episode of CSI: a murder occurs in a restaurant where everyone eats in complete darkness, served by blind waiters. It’s real (not the murder!), I’ve been there, I have a loyalty card. Not by choice, but because the dang bloomspot deal came with it- the next time I go, I get free drinks. Damn good deal.
What to say? The place gives exactly what it advertises- you hang out in the bar, balming your anxiety with top shelf cocktails, until the host calls you and hands you off to your “guide.” I think I speak for all of Dans Le Noir’s customers when I say the fear isn’t of vampires, but of smearing your face and clothes with something sticky in the dark. You line up like third grade, feel up the person before you and the blind waitress seats you at a long table, across from your date. Comfort comes pretty quick- you map out your fork, knife, spoon, and the all-important napkin, and you’re good, from bumbling idiot to Daredevil right from the first course.
Dans le Noir gives you the option of four meals in three courses- the white, a truly surprise course, and three chicken exit options: green, red, and blue, or vegetarian, meat, and seafood respectively. Even though my girlfriend and I had completely different courses, we could not stop describing the entrancing aromas, the different textures, and what the hell we were putting in our pie holes. Menu options truly take the fear out of eating something wacky, like live octopus, and the waiver you sign beforehand recommends you inform everyone of allergies.
All of those concerns fade away when you successfully spear a food item and cram it in- gastronomic ecstasy. I’m not going to ruin their seasonal menu by announcing loudly what the items were, five feet from new customers- suffice it to say, you get your money’s worth, it’s incredibly rewarding and enlightening, and my god are the menus well thought out. Most chefs are encumbered with a precarious equation: Should I use so-and-so sides because they look good on a plate, or opt for the best pairing of complementary flavors? Won’t my guests be freaked out by something they’ve never tried before, or looks strange? My customer ordered something that requires precise timing, but they’re taking forever with their escargot appetizer! These concerns are happily tossed out the window, because let’s face it, nobody gives a damn when the food is invisible, smells amazing and tastes even better. Time is saved on plating, nobody runs around wasted in the dining area, and the focus is on the food.
That is, it should be. Let’s face it, most restaurants in the fashion district are populated by overpaid yuppie types and bar crowds who are obnoxiously fixated on themselves. In the dark, where you have to depend on strangers just to pass the water pitcher, your patience with humanity is sorely tested. A man doesn’t take a girl out if he hates the way she smacks her lips on something particularly delicious- in the dark, seated next to one, you don’t have the option of changing tables or communicating with body language. Everyone is trying to fill up the blackness with the sound of themselves, and pretty soon you’re bombarded by so much other peoples’ crap that the point becomes lost- you can’t even hear your date describe her suspiciously delicious salad-type thing or tell her about the chocolate-covered meat item you’re pretty sure is lamb. The problem with Dans Le Noir isn’t the dark, its the overindulgent clientele who find their way into it, who don’t appreciate how this is what blind people have to do every day for meals.
Pick a party of your own friends, people you can stand, preferably about eight, and try to occupy a table by yourselves- Dans is worth the price and experience once you eliminate the ass factor. Every chef should dine here once, just to test themselves and get an objective look at their palate. Don’t forget to stop at the well-stocked bar (words to live by) afterwards and find out what you ate- to be fair, the menus are a bit dated and you should ask the hostess if any changes have been made. Blue is definitely the hardest to guess, with the oddest pairings, but if Red is any indicator, everything is cooked perfectly. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work out your own sensory limits. I’m still trying to figure out why they printed flat braile on the menus…