What an incredible dining experience!
O. Noir is a restaurant that’s main feature is ‘dining in the dark’. Each of their four seating areas are entirely without light and you are served by a member of their staff that is vision impaired.
My ten year old son had heard about this place and wanted to give it a try, so my wife and I took him to this unique restaurant experience.
Unlike most restaurants, when you arrive at the location you go below ground to get to the entrance and as you are in the reception area you notice a distinct lack of windows of any kind letting in light. The reception and bar areas are lit and this is where you decide upon what you will order to eat and drink. We chose the ‘main course and dessert’ option for each of our meals.
After you have turned off your cellphones and removed any glowing objects you are led to one of the seating rooms where the hostess knocks on the door. A visually impaired server then greets you and instructs you to hold his shoulder in a conga line to go into the room where you will be eating. Then you go through two sets of doors into total darkness and brought to your table.
My son freaked out a little bit and asked to be taken to the washroom almost immediately, which is back in the lit area, so our server brought him back outside. While he was gone my wife confided in me that she too was starting to panic due to the complete lack of light and the claustrophobic feeling that it brings. I assured her that if she was not acclimatized to the darkness after ten minutes that we could take our meals to go and that seemed to comfort her enough for her to continue with the meal.
We were the first ones to be seated and it was a little off-putting to not know how large a room you were in. We also didn’t know if this was a private room just for us or if there were going to be more people eventually brought in. After a few minutes more people were led in and as we were finishing our dinner it seemed like the room was fairly full. I spoke with the server when we were all finished and he let me know that the room we were in held 45 patrons, so it must have been much bigger than what it felt like.
After we were all settled at the table we were brought a basket of warm buns and told that in front of us on the table was a plate with a knife, fork, and some butter on it. It was very interesting trying to butter a roll without seeing where the butter was or how much you were putting on it. My son resorted to ‘thumb butter’, scooping the butter out with his thumb and not the knife.
The meal was lovely, my son had the penne pasta with rose sauce, Angie had the steak with green beans and mashed potatoes, and I chose the ‘vegetarian surprise’ which ended up being eggplant parmesan on a bed of rice. The challenges of eating in the dark were apparent very quickly, not knowing what each forkful of food being brought to your mouth was, how much was there (if any) and even finding out if your plate was empty or not. I had no idea what it was that I was eating. I figured out the rice (duh) but thought it was some squash/tomato/cheese thing. In hindsight it was obvious what it was, but at the time I was so captivated by the textures and flavours that I wasn’t thinking about what it was I was eating.
The absolute best part was the dessert. I have had nice chocolate mousse before at some very expensive places, however this left them all in the dust! I don’t know if it was because we had grown accustomed to the darkness and were now relying on our other senses more, or if it truly was an amazing mousse.
Once you are ready to leave the server brings you as a group out to the reception/bar area and you settle your bill in the light. Walking out into the light again was a bit of a shock to the system, so it is really good that they have the hallway lights dimmed. We were all surprised to find out that it was 8 o’clock at night, meaning we had been in the darkness for an hour and a half. It did not feel that long at all.
My wife and son had an amazing time once they became comfortable with the sensory deprivation and it was all we could talk about during the dinner and ride home. Overall, it was a wonderful experience that gives you a greater understanding of what it means to be visually impaired and you get a wonderful meal out of it as well.
It was hard for me to believe, but I guess I’m just naive. I was walking downtown and passed a table on the sidewalk with two parents and two children. The parents were absorbed in their devices and the two children were bored out of their skulls just sitting.
The day before I had spent an hour drive in the car with my ten year old son and we did not stop talking the entire trip. Questions, discussions, ideas and random thoughts were bounced back and forth and I was so happy and so much richer for the interaction. There was no music, podcasts or other distractions, it was just straight one on one conversation. It was awesome.
Contrast that with the couple at the table ignoring their children. There was no acknowledgement of the other people at the table, both parents were focused on the little screen in their hands as opposed to the little faces and minds across the table.
Mealtimes are a wealth of opportunity to discuss future plans, current events, their days or even just what shows you want to watch when you get home. With children, as with everything in life, you get out of them what you put in. Make the effort to be interested and engaged with them and they will be interesting and engaging.
Too often we are focused on the potential of interesting things happening far away from us, the latest celebrity gossip, the Lamebook update from some friend we haven’t seen in 5 years, or someone else showing off what a wonderful time they are having on InstaSham.
Part of mindfulness is acknowledging and accepting this moment, being here now. Enjoy those around you, the sights and sounds, the smells, and them. I learned a lot about my son on that car ride, he’s more interested in space than I had thought, and I’m so happy I did. It was more enjoyable and interesting than sitting side by side silently listening to music.