It is an exciting thing to be in a new city and looking for somewhere to have dinner. And what a place we found! I made a reservation at O.Noir for Friday evening at 8:30. We dressed for supper having no idea what to expect. All we had to go on was the website and my vague memory of a review printed a few years ago in the newpaper.
O.Noir is a restaurant in the dark. They offer great food in complete darkness which, as their web site says, means no flashlights, matches, cell phones, cigarette lighters or luminous watches. The restaurants’ entire wait staff are blind.
Just inside the front door, we were received by friendly staff who handed us a menu and suggested that I might want to put my purse in the lockers provided (so that I wouldn’t lose it in the dark). Pat ordered his three-course meal and I ordered “Surprise me!” because after all, if you’re going to try something new you might as well go all in.
Our waiter was Mattieu, and after our introduction he told us to place our left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front (Pat on his, mine on Pat’s) and led us into a completely black dining room. He expertly led us to our chairs and made sure we were seated. He told us exactly where our water was (“on your left side, just above your fork”). And then he left.
It was a strange experience to sit in the dark like that. Pat said he closed his eyes while I kept mine open. I liked not having bright lights or other visual distractions, but I did notice that unless I was sitting so I could feel Pat’s arm against mine, I felt quite vulnerable. Hmmm.
The food was terrific. I didn’t find it difficult to identify all that I ate (garlic escargots, veal with grilled vegetables, tiramisu) but found cutting it up and getting it to my mouth was no mean feat! I only slopped it on my blouse once but I was very glad I had a napkin to wipe my face.
As we ate, we considered our senses. I wondered: would I take a sabbatical that’s all about gardening if I was without my sight? Maybe. If I was visually impaired would my own garden be different? Absolutely. Not all plants are grown for their beautiful colour or foliage, after all. Many are grown because they taste good, like tomatoes, or because they smell good, like roses. Others are grown for their texture, like lamb’s ears. And the sounds of a garden–water in a fountain, birds singing, wind in the trees–are every bit as important as the plants. My garden would be different if I couldn’t see it, but it would still be beautiful.
It was good to have an experience like dinner at O.Noir to make me wonder about it.