Tonight I dined in the dark. I am not trying to be metaphorical or creative in my writing, but rather I actually ate a 3-course meal accompanied by a glass of Cabernet in the pitch darkness. Imagine an hour and half meal without any visual stimuli. No basis on how the food is presented or the reaction from eyes to brain — that causes your stomach to rumble and your mouth to water. The sense you most commonly rely on has been abandoned and you are left to conquer a meal, both food and conversation, without sight.
After 9 months of cancellations (our own fault) and packed houses, we got a reservation for Opaque – Dining in the Dark, Santa Monica. I don’t often question a dining experience of any kind, whether it be a stop at the local taco shop or an evening out at the locally reknowned hot spot, but tonight I questioned myself. Why in the world do I feel the need to subject myself to an experience of discomfort? One in which I am giving up the very thing that allows me to throughly enjoy the food, the atmosphere, the company.
We entered V Lounge, a night club, that on the weekend is filled with bodies looking to enduge, to drink, to mingle, but tonight it is empty with the exception of a matre de. She welcomes us to Opaque, offers a menu and encourages a decision, here they will take our order. I choose an Heriloom Tomato Cucumber Salad with Kalmata olives, blue cheese, and a red wine vinagrette; the seared Ahi Tuna Steak with mango sauce, garlic broccoli sprouts, parmesan sticky rice; and for dessert a Mango Panna Cotta with coconut crème anglaise, a puff pastry stick, mint and fresh strawberries.
Once we choose our indulgance we are introduced to our waiteress, Margarita. She is wearing a pair of sunglasses and encourages me to place my right hand on her right shoulder, and Chris’ on mine. We are led into the darkness by this fearless leader. I instantly trust her as my most reliable sense disappears into the darkness. I can no longer make out the shape of Margarita, the surrounding room, or my hand on her shoulder. I try to focus, not on my sight but rather on her movements and her voice. She warns of a pole to our left, then tables on both sides, encouraging me to place both hands on her guidance as not to knock over the neighbors wine glass. As we near the table, or so she warns, she places my hand on the corner and guides me to a chair. I inherently know my place and take a seat.
As we take a seat and Margarita leaves us alone in this darkness I immediatly become aware of my surroundings. The volume of the room, the laughter, the discomfort, the concentrated conversation and most of all my excited discomfort. I can’t decide whether I should simple close my eyes or keep them open — there is no difference. This is a darkness I cannot ever remember experiencing.
We are soon after presented with our drinks, a basket of bread and butter and of course silverware. Our first test in touch. I inherently grab my napkin roll and unravel the silverware. I place the two forks on my left and knife on my right. It catches me surprise that I can appropriatly place my silverware on the table. Test two is one of taste, I slowly locate my glass of wine and take a sip. My tastes are intensified, every sip makes me think, contemplate deeper than normal. An enjoyment passes through my veins that I can’t describe. My discomfort is abandoned.
We are elegantly served our courses, hands guided to each plate. I develop a technique to manage the food onto my fork, without pushing it straight into my lap. A hand cups the plate to ensure no runaways find their escape. I keep stopping to really appreciate the experience, to be thankful for not only my eyesight, but the remaining senses I do have. I can taste every morsel, hear every sound, smell the flavors so intensley you can only be grateful.
The experience it’s self is one I believe every foodie or adventurist should try. Learn to stop and appreciate the things you take for granted everyday. Enjoy a meal unique from all others. Step outside your comfort zone and learn to abandon your fear and constraints. Indulge in a meal and experience like no other.