There is more to Dans Le Noir? than meets the eye. Beyond its gimmicky premise, this restaurant has a vision: to raise awareness of the visually impaired, by staffing the restaurant with blind waiters or “guides.”
Dans Le Noir? – French for “in the black” – invites diners to eat and drink in just that: the pitch black. The idea is by suppressing a person’s sense of sight, it will heighten their other senses.
The first outpost of Dans Le Noir? (yes, the question mark is part of the name) opened in Paris in July 2004. The restaurant concept has since expanded to locations in London, St. Petersburg, Barcelona and, most recently, New York City.
Edouard de Broglie is the president of the Ethik Investment Group, which owns the restaurants. He believes corporate social responsibility is the root of the company, and more than 50 percent of the staff has a disability.
“When you see disability as a difference, but not as a problem, then it brings you to very interesting concepts and ideas,” said Broglie. Fittingly enough, the backs of the staff’s T-shirts display a popular quote from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “There is no darkness, but ignorance.”
In this case, the industry-wide practice of “blind tasting” – tasting an ingredient while blindfolded then deciphering what it is – takes on a deeper emotional undertone. The tables are turned: The diners become the blind, and the blind, who rely on the help of others daily, become the guides.
At the New York location, the restaurant joined forces with Lighthouse International, an 107-year-old organization that helps people cope with the challenges of vision loss.
“People are cognitive that the person serving has that visual impairment. It’s a very interesting psychological test. They aren’t relying on their own senses and that just forms a connection,” said Barbara Gydé, the Chief External Affairs Officer for the organization. “It’s not sympathy, it’s empathy.”
Interaction with sighted people isn’t the only challenge, said Gydé. “The reality is it’s harder for people who are blind to find jobs.”
Samuel Davis III has seen both sides of the world, and found a home at Dans Le Noir?. The 51-year-old Bronx native was left blind in 1984 after being shot in the head.
“God took away my sight to give me sight. I have a brand new outlook on life,” said Davis. “I was supposed to be dead.” As he seamlessly navigates the pitch black room, Davis puts uneasy diners at ease with quips like “I could do this blindfolded” and “Don’t worry, I’m scared of the dark too.”
That vivacity and charm is crucial – after all at their core, restaurants are in the business of hospitality, said Broglie.
“It’s not easy. It’s like anything else, it’s mind over matter – if you don’t mind it, it doesn’t matter,” said Davis, who used to wait tables when he had his sight.
Employees like Davis go through a two-month training period, memorizing the layout of the room and how to set and bus tables. Because of the nature of the restaurant, particular emphasis is put on safety.
During dinner, the guides pass down training of their own that visually impaired people use on a day-to-day basis. For instance, it’s more effective to eat the contents of a plate from the outside-in so food doesn’t end up being pushed onto the table. Or, in order to refill a drink without the glass overflowing, place your finger slightly in the glass so when you feel the liquid on your fingertip, you know to stop pouring.
However, some former patrons like Jasper Gerard acknowledge that other factors - namely the food - are sacrificed for the sheer concept. Gerard, who is the restaurant critic for the Telegraph, reviewed the London outpost in 2008.
“If £187 for three is not daylight robbery, that is due only to the lack of daylight. If this joint has any merit, I'm in the dark about it,” he wrote.
The New York location opened in March, and hasn’t been subjected to an official review. Regardless, the experience of Dans Le Noir? has seemingly struck a chord. It’s been eight years since the original Paris location opened, and the company has plans to expand even further.
“People tell me I don’t know how you do it,” said Davis. “I’ve been blind 28 years, you’ve been blind an hour and a half. I admire you guys to even have the courage to do this.”
Would you take the plunge and eat in the dark? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Everyone that is shouting negative comments out the place, there is no obligation for you to dine at such establishment, so what is the point in hurling around about how stupid this place is and saying you would want to see if there is some thing in your food or not, i think your missing the whole point of this type of dining experience, which is to raise awareness of visual impairment to those sighted individuals, allowing them to have an understanding and gain some knowledge about how to correctly interact with some one in a respectful manner, the whole point is to open your mind into stepping into the lives of others, maybe those with negative comments would benefit from this experience, it may change your view and small mindedness in which you have
My father is blind and elderly and we joke about how he distinguishes between the contents of jar and cans in the fridge that are identical. He does a lot of random tasting so he doesn't end up with, say, a bowl of Cheerios swimming in orange juice instead of milk. When he eats out, he relies on the help of sighted strangers to tell him what is where on his plate, where the water glass is, the butter, etc. – so, yeah, eating in a place of total darkness might not be best for everyone. But he can quickly turn the tables, maligning us sighted folks because we cannot get by at night without having to turn on lights...
Another advantage: cheap electric bill. Very small price to pay for the ability to see, though. I couldn't imagine being blind.
"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
Look, I'm sorry some people are blind, but I cannot eat food in the dark when I cannot verify that cochroaches and vermin are not crawling around on my plate and table. As for putting your finger in the glass to know when to stop pouriing...waiters should not be blind and get your body parts out of my drink. And, I would bet that food is pushed off the plates and onto the floor. Which most likely means landcruisers and ants are all over the floor and your legs. yech!!
Marvin Zindler would have a field day in a place like this. "SLIME...everywhere!!"
Sir I'm pretty sure there restaurant is very clean an also I'm positive that they keep there staff hands clean with the putting there finger in the cup situtuation
Gee, Mike, sure hope you don't go blind, as you might could starve to death avoiding all those hungry bugs!
sound interesting under the catagory of try anything at least once. Just think, odds are you will be the only one telling the story of eating a dinner in a place like that of course if your not the adventurous type, you likely wont want to do it.
And anyone dead set against it is likely either afraid of the dark, or someone who hates anything different or moving outside their comfort box.
Wrong – there could be insects in the food, or the dishes could be dirty. Sorry – I have eyes and find them useful when it comes to determining what I am willing to eat, and that which is unacceptable. If the restaurant is "pitch black", I guarantee the tables are not properly wiped down, and doubt the dishes are cleaned acceptably.
Blind people live in filthy, yeah, I get it. Total conjecture with zero facts.
"However, some former patrons like Jasper Gerard acknowledge that other factors – namely the food – are sacrificed for the sheer concept. Gerard, who is the restaurant critic for the Telegraph, reviewed the London outpost in 2008.
“If £187 for three is not daylight robbery, that is due only to the lack of daylight. If this joint has any merit, I'm in the dark about it,” he wrote." Best comment on this board!
Wait. Being in the dark doesn't cure blindness or give blind people "a ray of hope." All it does is make it hard for sighted people to see. This is an absurdity.
So don't eat there. Problem solved.
Wrong. There was never a chance that I'd indulge in this, but not doing so does not make sense of the absurdity.
It gives them employment.
I have "Dined in the Dark" in San Francisco with my wife, and it was one of the coolest, most memorable dining experiences of our life!
Pricey... sure. Anxiety over the unknown and giving up control... yes! Exciting to enjoy a new experience... absolutely!
Just a logistical question.
Suppose there is an emergency (medical, criminal, small fire....) now you are going to have a dark room filled with panicking people. Or are you going to suddenly turn on all the lights and now you have a room with panicking people who are now blind for a few moments.
I wonder what the fire marshall thinks of this?
It is a novel idea, but from a safety standpoint....
Logically, ALL restaurants have to have clearance by the fire marshall. As well as, having safety measures in place for emergencies – as does Dans Le Noir?
To the persons concerned about emergencies and dirt. There ARE lights that are used for emergencies and for clean up like sweeping and mopping a floor. The kitchen has lighting of course. These types of places are inspected and must pass health regulations like other restaurants.
If I'm paying to eat, I want to eat something that I can't, or won't, make at home. Additionally it should be a fair return on cost to taste. But if it makes others feel good to walk a hundred yards in other peoples' shoes that's fine for them. Personally, I liken this to asking people to eat standing up because my back hurts and many chairs exacerbate my pain; I wouldn't want people to do that.
I wouldn't be able to do this. I'm always paranoid about bugs getting on my food.
You know I live in Montreal and I have eaten there. I am also visually impaired and I have friends who are waitresses and waiters there. I have to say the restaurant is as clean as a whistle. So you can feel safe eating there: Great place, but a wee pricey.
I have eaten in the Paris restaurant with a group of 8 friends. Yes it was expensive, but the food was good and the experience was amazing. You'll notice how loud you sound when you all start to talk. It is truly pitch black, you can't see your hand in front of your face, not a speck of light can be seen anywhere. Absolutely worth the experience.
I ate in the dark a few time, and it's really an amazing experience. I took my mum, she was really surprised: even if I had told her that it would be in the dark, she thought she would be able to see something. But no ! Real pich dark. And it's really difficulte to convey how strong and eye-opening (no pun intended) the experience of dining in the dark and meeting the blind waiters really is. You have to go in open minded, but it's well-worth it.
Regarding the food, there are menu with pictures, so you can see what you ate once you're out of the dark room.
Tl;dR : Try it at least once.
They have something similar in Jaffa, Israel. The restaurant is called Na'Lagaat (trans: Please touch). It has two sections. One like this, where the diners eat in the dark with blind waiters, and the other eating area is lit, with deaf waiters.
They also have an attached theater where all of the performers are legally deaf-blind.
(chuckle) I can see a lot of people being 'accidentally' felt up...!
Just like this place that simulates being blind, I would like to go to a place that simulates my being deaf.
No cell phones, no kids screaming, no loud inconsiderate conversations from the next table. Just silence. Please, sign me up!
Hey, doubting Thomas, guess what!?!? You asked for it, you got it. The same restarant group has a rest. Named Silence. Now thats one I want to try next. No upselling, bubbly waitrons referring to patrons of both genders as "guys", no Tower of Babble typical NYC trendy rest. "ambiance". No small talk. The only people who could readily function in this one would be my deaf-blind friends and those of us fortunate enough to know them and thier multifarous ways of communicating. To the tempoarily sighted, hearing, able-bodied among us, I would say "you don't know what you're missing. Yet.
Man I ain't eatin' nothin If I'm in a dump like this
There's something better somewhere baby – I'll ask Siri where it is
Can't see the appetizer, can't find the fork without a spark
This food's much better, even if we're just dining in the dark
...Sorry, Bruce. Blame the headline writer.
P.S. The employment rate for the blind is disproportionately low vs. the rest of the population. It's great to see a place where the blind are easily employed.
Love it!! My daughter is visually impaired, and I would sincerely enjoy the opportunity to experience a meal in her shoes...
I'm interested in having this dining experience; I just haven't had the chance to yet.
Eating in dark. Hmm. It sounds messy and presentation is also important.
leave a small tip. they can't see it
We participated in the Paris restraurant in 2008 and although I have to agree that the food was typical French (i.e., pretty good, but not nearly enough to keep you from being hungry) I would put it in the top 10 of things I have done. This is an experience. If you just want to eat, go to a traditional restaurant, but this was something new and exciting. Now, if we could have just kept the rube sitting next to us from checking his watch every 5 minutes, it would have been perfect.
Whenever there is a power outage, I forget, and automatically reach to turn on a light switch because I can't see in the dark. Utility companies hold the power over us between darkness and light that we just "assume" will always be available to us. But what if one day it isn't and we have to learn the skills of the blind.
Someone invented these awesome things called "candles." You should check them out.
I agree – another awesome light invention? The sun....
If only someone would invent a sort of lamp that would use some sort of oil as fuel. I wonder what we could call it?
And let's not forget the good 'ol moon
Or...you could just do what you need to do during daylight hours,and sleep at night like everybody else...
Is is not simply an attempt to experiene blindness but to experience food in a new way. It is the old cliche that when one sense is taken away then one has to rely more on the other senses. Instead of sight, one willl enjoy the meal through smell, touch, and taste. Granted the food still has to be good – and hopefully reasonably priced – to ultimately provide a pleasureably dining experience.
What a scam! Charge you extra for the 'experience' and save money on the energy bill at the same time.
How very enlightened of you.
"Do you know what you're eating...."?
Just thinking about how much fun I could have with my girlfriend in a totally pitch black restaurant. Footsie taken to a whole new level!
We used to do black-room parties in the bedroom but that was before the STD epidemic. Oh, the fun times.
Those colors mess you up. That wasn't a banana that someone put in your mouth.
Be careful. These places serve human brains and call it chicken.
And eyeballs they call stuffed black olives.
They have had this in Toronto for 7 years. Friend of mine enjoy it, but I am uneasy to not being able to see my surroundings. The last thing i need is some pervert touching me in the dark.
This is such a dumb concept. Plus, all you have to do is close your eyes when you are eating. Why does the whole restaurant have to be dark. How dumb.
Ate at a similar restaurant in Zurich. Not only could I not see, but I could not understand any of the conversations from any of the other tables...talk about feeling out of place. Could only speak English to my waiter and my Swiss friend. Food was fantastic and was an experience I will never forget. The best part was when the waiter poured my beer into a glass and then I couldn't find it right away...he had to tell me where it was...right in front of me. Our waiter had worked there for sometime and said he really enjoyed working there.
No thank you.
They don't know what they're serving, you don't know what you're eating, and presentation is out the window.
I've been to one of these here in Toronto, it's been in business now for a couple years. Was worth experiencing once but I wouldn't go back. It's a very strange sensation and people have a natural tendency to whisper in the dark instead of talking normally, so you wind up in a semi-quiet room with who knows how many other people and everyone likely felt very awkward... we did.
This is an overpriced gimmic and it is exploitation of a disability. I'm severly dyslexic, like to the point of every word I read is jumbled up, and I don't cash in on that.
I dno't thnik it's exlpoitaiton at all. Mabye yuo shuold cahs in on yuor dylsexia.
Dear Jerry'sDaffy, Get an illuminated keyboard and you won't have that problem with spelling. I agree with the post that suggested wearing a blindfold to achieve the same effect as the darkened room. Next, how about eating the meal with a closepin over your nose, as smell is a big part of taste?
I'm laughing so hard I'm crying . . .
Then you're a fool.
They're not "exploiting" anything. They are turning a disadvantage into an advantage. That is to be admired, as ALL of us have some kind of disadvantage that we could probably turn into an advantage somehow. I suppose you'd prefer it if they all went to work in an office filled with non-visually impaired people and begged for "accommodations" in order to fit in?
I dno't thnik it's exlpoitaiton at all. Mabye yuo shuold cahs in on yuor dylslexia.
Just because you want people to feel sorry for you and your disability, does not mean other disabled people want to feel as vulnerable about their disability as you are with yours. This is not exploitation, its a chance for an independent disabled person to feel as if they can contribute to a working society. You should stop being a self made victim.
Didn't I 'see' this on an episode of The League? A restaurant in the dark?
it was on an episode of "CSI" also.
Another fan of CSI
Part of enjoying food is the ability to see it. I sure would not eat food that I could not see. The idea is retarded.
Pray you never become blind because based on your comment you would starve to death.
The blind have to eat in the dark regardless of a literal dark room and showing empathy is obviously something you lack. You are definitely in the dark. The world needs more empathy, not people like you thinking everything that is not your idea is "retarded".
Oh please. He wouldn't starve to death. He would adapt. You know that. He simply doesn't feel compelled to do that in the absence of some need. I'm sure you knew that, too.
His choice of words was crass and vulgar but I don't find your response worthy of admiration, either. You're really not impressing anybody with your sympathy, even if you though you could dress it up by calling it "empathy" instead.
Not according to him...he won't eat food he can't see. Simply making excuse that he doesn't feel compelled in the absence of some need doesn't exude the same impression when calling the idea "retarded".
And...I wasn't searching for the "admiration" pat on the back or attempting to impress with sympathy. You see, sympathy says "i feel sorry for you or your loss"...etc. I don't feel sorry for the blind or those that are Deaf/deaf/HH, amputee, paraplegic, bipolar, schizophrenic or otherwise. Pity parties don't help anyone. Being empathetic takes someone by the hand and says "show me how to understand so I can help".
Empathy is having understanding of someone's situation. So, instead of assuming which way I feel (since you know me so well) sympathetic or empathetic, let me say I am not sympathetic but rather empathetic towards those who are different because they don't want a pity party. I look at them in a light of everything they have to offer the world to make it a better place.
It's not a "retarded" idea.
the only thing "retarded" is you and your use of the term. what a jerk!
Food needs to be good, bottom line. Otherwise, you will feel taken, good cause or not.
Interesting concept but unless the food is good then it will only last as long as it's novelty.
I tried this – it was super expensive and I only managed to get about three bites of food per course. Also – I had a panic attack when we first entered the room (overwhelming sense of claustrophobia). My other friends seemed ok but it's definitely not worth the amount of money you spend.
I will say that I have a lot of respect for blind people! It was an expensive learning experience...
I think it would be a great experience to try it. I think I would panic a bit too. Experiencing a new thing is always nervous. I am a Certified Interpreter for the Deaf and I went through a course that simulated being Deaf it was a neat experience to put on their shoes for a day. Although not completely Deaf it was a great experience. Just like being in a wheelchair for a day seeing how they manage. It's always great to learn how others live life.
I don't like to be in NYC, but, this would make a trip worth it.
Then I don't know what part of NY you're visiting...
This absolutely has to be the stupidest concept known to man.
It's stupid to give blind people jobs, and to bring awareness of the blind? I don't recall anyone telling you that you had to go there.
I thought that title was reserved for 'marriage'?
I go to a restaurant for the taste of good food anyway. Never cared about ambiance. I saw the French restaurant on a special a few years back. Sounds like an interestng dining experience!
Nothin' goes in this maw without visual inspection first. I look, lick, then dig in if it meats my expectation... (or should I say meets. lol)
I went to eat there 5yrs ago with my wife here in Montreal. It's a definite experience!
Corporate social responsibility is a great concept. I cannot wait to visit the restaurant. I would definitely take the plunge as long as they don't serve liver and/or okra!
Okra is gross.
Interesting story. As far as the "critic review" is concerned, I wouldn't expect the food or ambiance to be dazzling, either. Get over it.
“God took away my sight to give me sight. I have a brand new outlook on life,” said Davis.
No he didn't He gave you sight and some human took it from you. Now the rest of your senses that were also given to you are to be relied on.
Correction: God doesn't exist, so he didn't give or take away anything.
Correction: God does exist and Jdizzle is absolutely correct!!
Why must you be such a jerk?
This is true.
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