Wednesday, October 21, 2015

O'Noir Restaurant, Montreal - Eating in the Dark

It has been so-o long since I have posted here.  There have been many changes in my life.  I don't know where to begin.  So I will break the ice with a review of an exciting and unique dining experience I had a week ago.  It was one of the highlights of a recent vacation that was filled with new adventures! 

When you enter O'Noir restaurant in Montreal, Canada,  you do not realize that you are about to embark on an exercise of trust. You are told to remove anything that lights up or glows, including watches or cell phones, and to place them in a locker. And even though you made the reservations knowing you'd be eating in the dark (thus the name of the restaurant), you don't quite understand what that means.  

You order your meal before entering the dining area, which you do "a la Bunny Hop" by holding onto the shoulders of your waiter who, God knows how, guides you to your table and helps you sit in your chair.  Your spouse is holding onto your shoulders as you amble blindly along. Once seated, you realize that never in your life has there been a room as dark as the one you are in. You can see absolutely nothing.  It is pitch black. 

As you realize your eyes will never "adjust" to the darkness, you feel a hand on your shoulder and hear the familiar voice of your waiter (in our case Samuel) telling you that he has placed your water glass on your left shoulder.  He then instructs you to grab it and feel around the table in front of you for a spot in front of your placemat where you gently place it. Then comes the stemmed wine glass full of wine.  I place mine beside my water glass and I do not let go of it. A basket of warm rolls is then held beside me and I am instructed to take one.  I bite into it and it is delicious. As is the wine. When one sense is completely gone, all others seem to be heightened. My appetizer was mercifully a pate spread on toast, so I could feel around and easily eat it with my hands. Embarrassingly, I do the same with the small salad on my plate, as I can not find my fork. By the time my main dish arrives, though, I have a fork in hand and am determined to use it. And use it, I do!  My taste buds are titillated by the flavors that fill my mouth. The haddock has a luscious salmon mouse on it and a wasabi glaze.  I do not expect to find stewed eggplant but love the taste and the texture. And the dill that somehow ends up on my mashed potatoes is delightful. I find myself scraping my plate in the darkness, not wanting to leave one morsel behind. 

My eyes never get used to the dark. I can not find one speck of light in the room. But the experience is exciting and almost, just almost, scary. I mean, what if my spouse thinks it might be funny to switch out my dinner plate for a a lettuce leaf or to put my wine glass on the other side of the table?  Worse yet, what if he decides to goose me while I am shoving a fork into my mouth or sipping my wine?  Moreover, how do I know I am really eating fish and mashed potatoes?  It could be mashed worms for all I know!  Like I said, it's all about trust. As we leave, we see a party of 17 arrive. I honestly can't imagine how that would work unless they are seated 2 by 2, or 3 by 3 at most.  And, honestly, I don't have THAT much trust - 17 is too many people to rely on.  Would I recommend this restaurant? Highly. I think it is something that must be experienced - for a couple of reasons. First, as I said, when you are completely deprived of sight, food takes on a new dimension. As do the other senses. And that element of trust that is required for an experience like this?  I found it refreshing, unifying, and quite intimate.