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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Blind Date at Dans Le Noir

Here's a food review i'd do like a real food blogger.
A) I could eat my food hot instead of waiting till all photography is done
B) I could concentrate on conversations instead of photographing
C) There're no notes to be taken, the dishes are not named (really, the food bloggers are THAT hardworking)

In fact, cameras are strictly forbidden because all you see is....

It was a blind date. Figuratively AND literally.

It was my first time dining with Nic and he generously took me to Dans Le Noir upon my request. I was after-all, the tourist.

I thought eating in pitch darkness is a good ploy to have a romantic date with a looker, except i really couldn't look at him in pitch darkness.

I was looking forward to Dans Le Noir the entire holiday and i was very excited.

Arriving at Dans Le Noir, London, we see that it was a Hen's night for a group of girls.

"Oh no, this is not good," he groaned.

He was right. In pitch darkness, with the loss of eyesight, your sense of hearing is heightened so the already loud hens became deafening. So much so that i felt like screaming, "Quiet, you bitches!" finding courage in the darkness knowing they can't come punch me.

Upon entering, a lady swops upon us asking for our reservation and proceeds to explain the concept and take our orders. It was a choice of colours. The red menu (for meat lovers), green (for vegetarians) or white (for surprise seekers).

We could choose between 2 courses, 3 courses (without drinks) or a degustation menu. She was a young Asian lady with lifeless jet black hair with eyeliner drawn around her eyes. She rocked her body back and forth, bringing her face close to us as she explained.

I whispered to Nic, "Will we regret this? Why does it feel like I'm going to enter a horror house?"
We confirmed that we both had no allergies. Drinks weren't included in the 2 course meal (49 pounds) so we ordered some. I reminded him not to go for red wine in case of spills, which is likely to happen when you fumble in the dark!

We then surrendered our personal belongings, anything that is reflective or shiny. Mobiles, cameras, watches, we obediently locked them in free lockers available.

Ghow, a burly visually impaired man then took over as our waiter for the night. We were told that in the event of any emergency (had to pee, had to puke etc) in the dark room, we were to stay seated and shout for Ghow. Boy, is it going to be chaotic.

Ghow lifted my hands and placed it on his shoulders. He signaled Nic to follow suit behind me. We're going in like a Choo Choo train!

"Do not be afraid of the dark", Ghow let out a sinister laugh.

Ok, i made that up.

The moment we stepped in, darkness swallowed us whole. Our eyes didn't adjust to the dark and never did.

"Maybe i should have ate more carrots!"
"Maybe i should have brought my night vision googles."

Impressive, he has night vision googles!

Not seeing anything, we hear a lot of chatter, clinking of cutlery, scrapping of chairs, giggling and shuffling of the waiters' scurrying around. All waiters are visually impaired by the way.

Ghow led us to our table, took my hand off his shoulder and placed it on the edge of the wooden square. He then gave clear instructions to feel my way and sit myself down. There was a sense of insecurity and i felt uneasy that Ghow was going through his instructions too fast. I felt like i had to hear every single word and not miss a thing. Instructions became my lifeline in this dark place.

"Wait!" I said.
"I'm not seated yet, i'm trying to get my coat off." I announced.

On hindsight, it was quite silly to announce my move, it was totally not necessary for the awkward silence as i removed my coat.

I used to lie in bed as a school kid putting on my uniform just to catch an extra forty winks. With my eyes closed, it wasn't that difficult to put it on. However, in pitch blackness, removing a heavy winter coat took some effort and it felt like an eternity.

"Ok, i'm seated!" I felt obliged to announce. Otherwise, they wouldn't know right? 

I then followed Ghow's instructions and felt for my glass and cutlery, orientating myself to the table's settings.

I reached my hand out asking, "Nic, are you there?" I felt like a needy girlfriend. 


We held hands whenever we talked, it was mostly my initiative. I needed to know i wasn't talking to air. I realised in the dark, the sense of touch translates to security. For an Asian girl like me who is uncomfortable with touch on a first date, i disregard that fact in Dans Le Noir. I never really found men with hairy arms appealing either but in the dark, something extra to feel was suddenly quite new!

I knew Dans Le Noir could sit 70 but it felt a lot smaller with all the noise around. Perhaps the space IS really small because i our knees touched underneath despite being across each other. Also, i felt someone beside me. 

I poked her.

Suddenly in the dark, everything was about touch. I touched EVERYTHING.

She giggled and i said, "hello, you're real!"

Dans Le Noir is hardly romantic when you're in close proximity with other patrons. Sweet nothings can't be said, secrets can't be divulged and you better not bad mouth any one because you wouldn't know who's in front of you!

Ghow returned with our first course of meal. I took a whiff, i smelt nothing. Not knowing the ingredients of our meals, we excitedly dig in. My first bite was an empty fork. I forked nothing!

It took me about 2 minutes to try again. In the end, i secretly used my fingers to push something onto my fork. I hope nobody saw me.

It was slimey and chewy, i liked it! I reckon it was some sort of sashimi although i can't quite put a finger on what. It wasn't my usual salmon, neither was it octopus.

"How's yours?"
"I think they gave me grass." He spluttered.

"Really? Oh no..."

I convinced him that i would like to do a mission impossible. We'll swop appetizers, i'll take his salad! I took the lead by verbally saying out what I'm doing and how I'm pushing my plate over.

We exchanged appetizers without much difficulty while the couple next to us mentioned out loud how they'd like to taste each other's but it's probably going to be mission impossible. I smirked in the dark.

"There's more on your plate!" I exclaimed.

I felt something other than salad to poke. So i poked and pushed it into my mouth. It was beef capparcio. It was nice but i liked mine better.

Nic seemed to be a natural in the dark, he finished his food a lot faster than me. I joked he must know how to remove a bra blind folded AND with one hand. Ok, CAN'T SEE ME BLUSH.

Our main course arrived shortly after while we chit chat with the couple next to us. I have an imaginative mind so judging from their voices, i started drawing up a picture of them in my head. I asked the lady next to me if she was blonde, she laughed "no". A short while later, i asked if the gentleman with her had short brown hair, she laughed and said "bingo". I am good at this!

I imagined both to be a little rudy.

When Ghow came to check how we're doing, i asked Ghow how do the visually impaired know if someone is a looker or not. He replied, "by the voice." However he can't quite explain how to analyze A voice.

Nic reported that his main course is pork crusted with crispy skin. I fingered my meat onto my fork (he didn't have to know this) and offered him to try. I stuck my hand out and said, "here!" He let out a yelp and said i almost blinded him. I forked my date.

Mine was also meat but i can't quite lay a finger on what meat. Nic confidently insisted his was pork. Mine was tender and crumbles, perhaps very good beef i guessed.

Nic then offered his for me to try, he didn't fork me but my fingers ended up reaching for the pork at the end of the fork. 

With the loss of sight, i found out my appetite diminished. I just wasn't very interested despite the dishes tasting really good! The man didn't seem to experience that though, he heartedly ate everything on the plate. I asked how did he know if he cleaned the plate, he replied smartly, "I scraped the plate with my knife." 

Halfway through my meal, I realized there was a different texture in some meats. Never would I have thought it was a different meat, I just thought some was cooked slightly longer than others. Dans Le Noir was kind with us, everything was bite sized so there is no cutting. 

Pouring water was a challenge. You can't tell if water was poured into your glass, and you can't tell if it's reaching the brim. But we managed.

Chatting animatedly about the experience, i asked my date questions like "If for weeks, you blind eat with a girl you've never met and you fell in love with her over conversations in the dark. Finally at some point, light was shed and she is hideous. Would you fall out of love?"

It was a tough one. The men couldn't answer.

"Would you rather lose your sight or your sex drive?"

That was another tough question to answer.

Then i commented, "I can eat with my mouth open and you wouldn't even know!"

He then replied, "I can hear you talking with your mouth full though."

I wished the darkness will just envelope me and hide my shame.

And it did.

The cutest thing that happened in the dark was when Nic had some disappointing news to tell me (we couldn't go to the football game on Saturday!) I asked him about Saturday's plans and he exhaled heavily, held my hand and dramatically said, "About that...I think NOW's the best time to tell you this because I can't see you."

There's something about men not being able to withstand tears in a girl's eyes i guess.

Chelsea's match was postponed because they got into the semi-finals! Nic went on to explain he has alternatives planned (a stadium tour), how disappointed he felt when he knew and how he tried to find a replacement match.

When you're blind, one's gut feel is so much stronger and sincerity in a voice is deeply felt. You become more in-tuned with emotions. I assured him it was Ok despite being honestly disappointed. It was at this moment I was very touched by my blind date who despite being a new friend went the lengths to make my stay worthwhile.

The experience was SO enjoyable that I ordered dessert even though it wasn't part of the plan.

Dessert wasn't as tasty as the first two because it felt like it was a lot of cream and chocolate. We wondered if there was food presentation on any of this dishes because there really wasn't a need to right?

If there was a fly on my food, i wouldn't know. It's good for obsessive compulsive disordered people. What you can't see, you won't know. Extra protein!

Halfway through the dessert which i half heartedly ate, my hand felt something wet and soft on the table. "What's this!" I exclaimed (there's a lot of exclamations in the dark).

I didn't feel this item on the table before, how did it suddenly appear?

I was curious.

Shall i pick it up? I pondered. Was it part of the table deco i didn't notice before?

It took me 30 seconds and i decided to put it into my mouth to find out if it was edible or not. I announced it much to the disgust of my date and eavesdropping neighbours.

I gingerly took a whiff, it smelt like lemon. I took a nibble, it was jelly. I was glad it wasn't some sponge off the table. I figured i must have pushed it off my plate unknowingly. The jelly was part of the desert.

Finishing dessert, we got up to leave. We went in as a train, we went out as a train. This time, Nic squeezed my shoulders and I smiled, knowing he enjoyed it as much as I did.
Our eyes struggled to adjust to the change and the camera's flash was BLINDING.
That's Ghow, our waiter. He gave me his name card which had braille as well as text printed.

The menu was then revealed to us. My appetizer was scallops tartare (damnit, my favourite!) with black pudding which Nic finds revolting yet finished it all unknowingly in the dark. Both our main courses had 3 kinds of meat which was very surprising to know after.
The wagyu beef must be the crumbly one while the tougher one was ostrich! I don't think i ever found the blue shark steak on my plate, i must have thought my plate was empty!

I must have wasted a lot of yummy food :(
Many reviews said the pricey food tasted bad but i honestly think it's comparable to fine dining despite the novelty (and novelty usually tastes bad).

It is a highly recommended experience. Life, sight and the joys of eating is so much more appreciated after.


claire said...

Awesome post was captivated the whole time. Wanted to try it out but didn't have time to squeeze it into my schedule. How did you two meet! You two look cute :p

Xtine said...

Hey so kind of u to leave a comment. Thanks! I wasnt sure if anyone would sit tru bc its so wordy! But well,no pics! Lol.

Anonymous said...

I savoured every word of this review

Dacookieman said...

Must be quite a thrilling experience dining in the dark. I enjoyed the read:) Can't imagine not being able to photograph my food before I eat though. LOL

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