But it is not the game that sparks this article, it is a restaurant in Zürich with the same name. The idea is simple yet intriguing: A full restaurant, with a complete menu including beverages, serves the food in complete darkness! No, the guests are not blindfolded, no, there is not a tiny little light source somewhere, no: The restaurant itself is completely dark!
How does it work? When you enter, the maitre d’ welcomes the guests and gives them a short introduction. Everyone is required to leave coats, handbags, etc in lockers since they would be obstructions in the dark of the dinning hall and near to impossible to retrieve if lost without destroying the atmosphere for all guests. Then, one is obliged to study the menu and to memorize roughly what one would like to eat. On my visit, it offered three starters, main courses, and desserts. The selection was small, but nice and had even a vegetarian choice. Once one is ready to go, one of the server leads the guests to their tables. Now, how does the server see in the dark? Well, they don’t since they are all blind. After forming a little procession with your hands on your front person’s shoulders, we were first brought into a semi-dark ante. Then we were brought to our table in the dinning hall, with the server guiding us all to our chairs.
Boy, the first impression after sitting was disorienting! You really couldn’t see anything which after a while started to heart my eyes! After a while I took of my glasses since I was still straining to see something which really tired my eyes out. Without the glasses it worked a bit better for me, but after two and a half hours I was exhausted, I must say!
But I am jumping ahead. After sitting down, the server took our order. If we expected a concession to the fact that we could not see, we were mistaken: Wine was brought in a bottle, glasses were placed on the table, and it was up to us to make sure that we won;t tip anything over! Refilling the wine glasses turned out to be my job, which I did by sticking my finger into the glass and waiting till me tip felt the liquid… A similar tactic I had to use to find the food on my plate. I mean, they did not serve just a big bowl of something mixed all up! My main course was fish with rice and a comgit of cherry tomatoes! Try to get that on your fork without seeing anything! So combined use of fork and fingers was at least in my case unavoidable!
Why do this in the first place? The the story behind the restaurant reveals that the idea was born during an exhibition called “Dialogue in the Dark”. The idea is to create an experience for people with sight that resembles blindness. That exhibtion toured through a lot of places including Hamburg and was a great success. The restaurant takes that idea further. Besides the helplessness that one feels in a very common and everyday situation, one is also forced to concentrate on the remaining senses once the main sense has been switched off.
Did it work? Well, to some extent certainly. However, I was so busy with the mechanical act of eating that I did not savor the food as much as I wanted to. That was a real pity since the food was very nice indeed. Nevertheless, I can only recommend the experience to everybody. Inspired by this idea, there are now several restaurants all over Europe that offer the same experience. Maybe you can find one around the corner?
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