Thirteen years ago, Dinners in the Dark began whittling diners’ senses down from five to four, depriving them of their sight to enhance their taste buds. Here’s how it works: You show up at the appointed hour, and an attentive maître d’ hands you a comfortable, adjustable blindfold that proves so impenetrable you can keep your eyes open and see nothing but an infinite dark abyss. Twitter is nowhere to be found (I checked).
Once you’re blindfolded, you’re escorted to your table, carefully guided but filled with a sense of playful disorientation. There is no music at first, only the sound of chirping birds and the general chatter of your disembodied companions. I was seated alone during my recent visit and entertained myself by eavesdropping, overhearing such gems as, “For our one-year anniversary, we’re renting out a movie theater and inviting everyone who came to our wedding to watch our wedding video.” #JEALOUS
Once everyone is seated, the triumphant pop of a champagne cork pierces the chitchat like a starting bell, and soon a mysterious amuse-bouche arrives. None of the food or beverages are identified beyond their consistency — typical instructions from the staff consist of “Touch it, smell it, but don’t taste it yet,” or, “I am pouring a bubbly liquid into your glass.”
The chef quiets the room and asks for everyone’s silence for the purposes of a “sound snapshot,” which involves half the room (the men) listening as the ladies take their first bite of that crispy amuse-bouche. There’s a general titter of delight as we discover something inexplicably gratifying about the sound of a dozen or more people explosively crunching in unison, and once the men have their turn, the collective mood is downright giddy. Conversations pinball around the room and expand beyond the traditional borders of tables and friends, with the voices of strangers coming together in a spirit of blind conviviality.