By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer & Food Critic
PARIS, FRANCE — As a food critic, I’ve had a lot of great and memorable dinners and dishes over the years. But nothing compares to what I experienced a few weeks back in Paris, France.
My lady and I were on a weekend jaunt to Paris to visit her brother, who is an up and coming chef in France. We did the normal things, like walk around the Eiffel Tower and see the Mona Lisa. There are a few fans of art at the Louvre, that is for sure, but to be perfectly honest, I thought the Mona Lisa would be bigger. The painting is no larger than a postcard; she must have been a small woman.
After we did the normal fun that comes with being in Paris, we were off to our restaurant review, the “Dans le Noir?” right in town. (I looked it up, and directly translated; the name of the restaurant is “In The Dark?”)
Now we had read up on some background on the restaurant, and apparently we were about to have the dining experience of a lifetime. “Dans le Noir?” employs and has only blind waiters and waitresses and they serve you in the pitch black. You have to store all cameras, cellphones and any other light emitting device in a locker before you go into the dining area.
Now how could this be, we are eating in pitch black being served by a blind wait staff? Well, let me tell you it is true, and it is something I will not soon forget. After we store all of our light devices they slowly lead you behind two very large and thick black velvet curtains. Now it really is completely dark, and the nice blind waitress holds onto you as she leads you to your table. I really got a sense of what it is like to live in that world; it is a lot more hearing and feeling. There was really no point in opening your eyes, as you wouldn’t see anything anyway.
I felt my other senses were quite elevated, and I noticed sounds and smells a lot more. Maybe what they say is true, and if you are without sight or hearing, the other senses take over. At least that is what was happening to me. The people laughing and talking seemed more intense, and I sure was paying more attention.
We started off with bread and butter, along with a nice glass of red wine. Well, as it turns out, it is harder to butter your bread when you can’t see. It really was a more hands on experience. My lady was having a hell of a time with it, which just made me laugh. She kept dropping her knife, and just couldn’t get the hang of it. It took me about fifteen seconds to give up on the utensils, and just use my fat fingers to feed myself. After all, it is pitch black and nobody can see if I am using my eating implements anyway.
Next we had a really delicious salad, and contrary to popular belief, using a fork to eat salad is overrated! Imagine a tasty Caesar salad, with croutons and all the fixings, and now eat it with your hands, it is downright awesome. I wanted to start this practice back home, and eat all my meals in the dark with my hands; it really is a different approach to dinner.
After the rocking salad, we had the main dish. And since you can’t see a thing, I had no idea what I was eating. It was a thinly sliced meat and it was divine. After the entire experience, when you are done, they show you laminated pictures of what you ate, and it turned out to be duck breast. They cooked it a delicious medium rare, and it made me wonder if they were preparing the food in the dark as well. The duck was served with potatoes and asparagus, all of which is totally fun to eat with your fingers. I bet we were not the first couple to abandon the fork and knife for the dinner session.
And for desert it was a fluffy and wonderful chocolate cake, which is also great to eat with your hands in the dark. Our waitress had it down pat, and did not skip a beat when it came to serving us. The experience was one of a kind, and I would definitely do it again. The company has restaurants in New York, London, Barcelona, St. Petersburg and Paris. This is great for celebrating a loved one’s birthday, an anniversary, or just as a fun surprise. I would definitely put it on your “To Do” list, and I hope they open one in Los Angeles in the near future.
The one in Paris is the home to the first historical “Dans le Noir?” restaurant. It is located in the heart of Paris, in front of The “Pompidou,” the museum of modern art, and not far from Notre Dame and The Louvre. The building is an old French traditional Restaurant, renovated into a restaurant in the dark. There is currently seating for 58 patrons. The address is 51 rue – Quincampoix – Paris, France. (For more information, please visit www.paris.danslenoir.com)
Vous allez vivre une expérience unique: déjeuner ou diner dans le noir absolu. Même si cette idée peut vous sembler d’abord étrange, c’est qu’en supprimant le sens dominant de la vue nous entrons tous dans un monde où nous doutons de notre environnement et de notre perception des choses, des gens. Une nouvelle expérience!
Avec l’aide de nos guides non ou mal-voyants vous allez complètement réévaluer la notion de gout et d’odorat pendant ce parcours pédagogique et gastronomique.
“Dans le Noir?” est situé en plein cœur de Paris entre les Halles et Beaubourg. A quelques centaines de mètres du Marais, de Notre Dame, du Louvre!
Le restaurant peut recevoir environ 58 personnes dans sa « salle noire » la principale salle à manger. Le restaurant dispose aussi d’un bar d’accueil et d’un lounge servant des vins raffinés et de délicieux cocktails surprise avant et après les repas.