During my recent trip to Montreal, Sarah and I went to an internationally famous restaurant called O.Noir. At O.Noir, diners eat in complete darkness. I mean complete darkness — the kind where you can’t see your own hand if you wave it 5 inches from your face. According to O.Noir’s website, there are multiple purposes for this experience. One is that when you can’t see your food, the people with whom you’re dining, or anyone around you, you tune in more than ever to the taste and aromas of food. Additionally, it gives one a beginning understanding of what it is like to be blind. All of the wait staff are legally blind, and serve as guides to sighted folks who visit.
After arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by our lovely waiter with his cool glasses, who instructed us to put a hand on his shoulder and “make a train”. We entered the dining room through many doors and curtains, into complete blackness. The room was lively; it sounded as though there were dozens of people in it enjoying their meals. The waiter knew exactly how to meander through the tables, not bumping a single thing, and led us to ours, verbally guiding us as to where our chairs were as well as what was on the table in front of us, and where it was. The menu, which we browsed and ordered from in the lighted “sighted” area before entering the all-dark dining area, didn’t feature explicitly vegan options, but they easily adapted some of their vegetarian dishes into all-vegan ones for us. They seemed to be mostly an array of vegetables with a bit of polenta, but I didn’t really have any idea what it was.
Eating without seeing was an interesting experience in the context of emotional eating. It is definitely true that I noticed more of the tastes of the food. I noticed what the food tasted as I first put it in my mouth and how it changed as I chewed it. I noticed textures. Aromas. Herbs and spices. The restaurant definitely had awesome chefs, and their creations were further enhanced by the heightening of other senses due to the absence of sight. I wondered if the chefs ever made the food into provocative shapes just to humor themselves because no one can see what the food looks like anyways…
I noticed that even after all my years of healing my emotional eating, I eat slightly faster than I probably could. It wasn’t something I actually ever noticed until this experience of eating without seeing anything at all, and I realized that it wasn’t so much about feeling emotional at this point, but was more a habit that I’d developed related to my current level of mindfulness within eating. I learned that I can bring even more mindfulness to my eating, and eat even slower.
I also noticed that I felt thrown off by the fact that I couldn’t really choose what I was eating. For example, one dish had a ton of various veggies in it, and where I would normally think, “Oh, now I’d like a taste of the cauliflower” and “Now I want some of the bell pepper”, I couldn’t choose ahead of time what I wanted my bite to be like. An unexpected privilege of being sighted.
I kept putting my fork and knife on my plate and the table between bites and courses and kept losing it. My fingers grazed my meal while searching for them. Confession: this eventually led to trying some of the food with my hands. No one could see me…
I also dropped some kind of sauce on my shoe without realizing it, and probably made a mess of the tablecloth by not being able to see what might have been dripping or how far my plate was from me. There were so many things I take for granted about the experience of eating because I have sight, and it definitely one that made me understand more of what blind people experience when they eat. Because I’m me with my own history, my experience was definitely also related to my history of healing emotional eating, as well.
Great food, awesome experience. I highly recommend you try this place if you go Montreal. Wear shoes you don’t mind accidentally spilling on and probably also clothes you wouldn’t mind spilling on, either.
Have you ever eaten at a restaurant in the dark, of which exist around the world? Have you ever eaten blindfolded? What was your experience like?