Last week my husband and I had a pretty unique dining experience. One of my team gave me a gift certificate to the Dark Table restaurant in Kitsilano. We finally had the opportunity to make out there last week and we were not disappointed. I had always wanted to try the restaurant, unsure how it would work but always open to trying new things.
We arrived a few minutes before our reservation and were greeted by a hostess who offered us a menu to review. We chose everything we wanted from drinks to our entree's. They had 5 different types of entrees to choose from. Beef, chicken, pasta, seafood and schnitzel dishes. We both chose to have the beef tenderloin as it sounded delicious. They let you know as part of the experience your appetizer and dessert are surprises.
Then you wait for your server to come out get you and literally guide you to your seats. She brought us in to a dark entry where all doors from the outside must be closed before she can let us enter into the dining room...which is in complete darkness. You cannot see anything, not even your hand in front of your face....although someone dining at a nearby table thought for sure that she could. Likely her brain acknowledging that her hand was there not that she could actually see with her eyes.
Our server - Sharon was completely blind and we were blown away at how well she navigated us through the maze of the restaurant, me holding on to her shoulders and my husband holding on to mine until we arrived at our table. Once we were seated she went to get our drinks and appetizer. She recommended we feel around to gain our bearings. The table wasn't very big. Just big enough for 2 placemats to butt up against each other across the table and room for a glass on either side of the mat.
She returned with our mystery appetizer which was a delicious salad filled with mixed greens, pear, chick peas and some things we weren't too sure about...some we could guess right away but other items they tell you to ask about at the end when you pay your bill....but we forgot.
Dinner arrived and you have to use your hands a little if you want to know in advance what you are about to put your fork into...I just poked my fork around and discovered the vegetables, beef and potatoes with each new bite. My husband decided to use his fingers to feel what things were so he had an idea of what he was choosing to eat next.
After dinner, I needed to use the washroom and Sharon our server expertly guided me through the maze of tables to the washrooms. She leaves you in a small outer room that is dark and then you enter the dimly lit washroom. Once done you wait in the dark room for her to return and take you back to the table. What was incredible was how busy the restaurant was and as we approached a table she sensed her colleagues and would annouce us as we passed. Amazing!
While I was in the washroom, my husband discovered just how well his ears became attune to hearing...without meaning to he could suddenly hear a lot of different conversations all around him. He felt like he was eavesdropping on peoples private conversations, but with no other sounds to focus on.....what else do you do. I felt the same as I shuffled through the restaurant, everyone's conversations sounded so loud as I passed.
Once we were finished our dessert our server guides us to another dimly lit area where you pay with sighted staff behind a counter.
We would highly recommend Dark Table to anyone and already have recommended to friends and family to check it out. An experience everyone should try at least once.
The idea was started in Switzerland where a blind man - Jorge Spielmann invited guests for dinner and blindfolded them to show them how blind people eat. Spielmann's guest enjoyed the experience so much that he opened a restaurant where blind servers worked serving diners in the dark.
Dark Table is owned by the same owner that has O-noir in Toronto and Montreal - Moe Alameddine.
An interesting fact which I am sure most sighted people don't think of is that the unemployment rate is approximately 70% for the blind. Which is not surprising with the sight focused world we live in.
It is great that Moe Alameddine has given the blind and visually impaired an opportunity to work, but I love what he says:
"it is truly the blind offering this unique, eye-opening experience to the sighted."
And it truly was an eye opening experience ....especially for myself as I have never had issues with my vision. It gave me a little insight into how my husband has to try and see without contacts or glasses on. Something I take for granted eveyday! I am sure most with excellent vision do....not intentionally...but ignorantly (with a lack of understanding) because even in the dark at home my eyes adjust...but there is no adjusting in a pitch black room with no source of light!