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O Noir Oh No!

April 16, 2012

In Toronto, there’s this restaurant that does things a little bit different. A diner’s rule of thumb in regards to lighting in a restaurant is that when a restaurant dims it’s lights, it is doing so to hide the fact that the food is no good. But this one restaurant, O Noir, has flipped that rule up on it’s end. No lights at the tables, what so ever.

The idea stemmed from some blind pastor in Germany, or so the legend says. The restaurant is supposed to teach understanding of what it’s like to be blind, (or visually impaired, don’t want to accidentally insult somebody because I used a word that’s not PC.) Personally, I think it’s a flawed experiment. Blind people are used to eating in the dark. They learned to eat in the dark when first they lost their sight, if they ever had sight. Me and everybody I was dining with have been eating with sight for our entire lives and returned to eating in the light afterwards.

Okay, so here’s how the restaurant works. Patrons walk down a flight of stairs from the street. This restaurant is in the basement. After walking down a long, dimly lit hallway, a bar and lounge appears. A bar and lounge that looks like a dank basement from a pre-war home with an attempt at an Irish pub feel. A host takes the patron’s order from a very limited menu. Five appetizers, five mains, five desserts. It’s a price-fixed menu. Gee, thanks for some selection.

After ordering, the patrons are lined up in front of this door and greeted by a server. The servers are all blind. Everybody in the line puts their left hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of them and are led into a small (I mean really fucking tiny) room with no light. From that room, they are led into another room with no light. That other room is the dining room with lots of tables, I think, it sounded like there were plenty of tables in the room.

I was in a party of eleven people. Eleven plus the server in that one tiny room caused people to get claustophobic.

The physical contact in the line is the only way for the patrons to know where they are going. The claustrophia caused by that little room broke the line. The server had to come back and fetch the last five people in the party.

The server was great. He would come to the table and say “Who ordered the octopus?” One person would say “I did.” Within seconds, the plate of octopus was on that person’s right shoulder. The server could determine who said what based on the location of the sound. I think that’s how he determined who said what. The server was very attentive. Whenever anybody asked for anything, they got it quick. Remember, this was in the dark. Forks dropped, glasses spilled, napkins were used a plenty.

On a sidenote, I nearly bust a gut laughing at how the server said “Octopus.” He said it “Octo-pooooss.” I don’t know why, I just found that hilarious.

I ordered the filet mignon, medium well with roasted potatoes. The steak was pre-cut as wielding a steak knife in the dark may be kind of dangerous. I thought of a really good method of finding food on my plate. With my knife, I dragged in towards myself. With my fork, I pushed it away from myself. Thus causing a clamping action on anything in between the knife and fork. When the knife and fork made contact with each other, I knew there was no food there, so I tried again elsewhere on the plate until food was found.

The problem was that the food was crap. Other people enjoyed their meal. Not me. My medium well steak was very well done. I can live with that. I don’t send back over-cooked steak. But the steak was drowned in some sort of sauce. At times, it felt more stew than steak. To make matters worse, the roasted potatoes were cold, soggy and under-cooked. Over-cooking one half of my meal and under-cooking the other half doesn’t balance out. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I would not recommend this restaurant. For what it costs, the food is not good enough. For what I paid, I can get a wonderful steak lots of places. In terms of the experience, for the same price, I can go to a teppenyaki restaurant, be served an unappetizing meal, but be given a show worthy of the higher price for poor food.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2012 8:04 am

    How many private parts are “accidentally” grabbed during this?

    My exact words upon leaving the dining room: “For anybody who feels as though I inappropriately groped them, I apologize. It was not my intention to grope you. Well, maybe not YOU, but the rest of you. I wasn’t trying to grope you.”

  2. April 16, 2012 8:46 am

    Nothing like gimmicky restaurants to jack up prices and disappoint with cuisine, eh? Seems to me places like this have lost the point of an “eating establishment” somewhere. Still, I’ve been to Medieval Times so I can’t really say I don’t fall for the gimmicks. (I didn’t foot the bill though.)

    We no longer need Medieval Times. The History channel is playing jousting now.

  3. April 16, 2012 4:29 pm

    I couldn’t eat in the dark. I would convince myself that I was eating cat or something equally as terrifying and I would run screaming and bumping into things.

    Cat??? This wasn’t a Chinese food restaurant.

  4. April 16, 2012 7:29 pm

    I remember reading about this restaurant when it first opened, I think. I completely forgot about it, and didn’t realize that it was still around.

    I think it’s really cool that it provides employment for the visually-impaired.

    It’s definitely a gimmicky place though… I doubt anyone is a regular!

    I can see schools having field trips there to teach tolerance or something. That would be the most regular they’d have.

  5. Riot Kitty permalink
    April 17, 2012 3:14 am

    Oh, that is so weird. If I wanted to spill my food I’d just eat at home, where I normally spill it by accident. And the octo-poooose line made me snicker too!

    I’ve been doing some research. Apparently it wasn’t octopus at all. It was some mutt, some half-breed of an octopus and a moose. Bigger tentacles and more antlers.

  6. April 17, 2012 3:31 am

    Sounds like the whole idea is pretty short-sighted.


    Maybe the chef was visually impaired too?

    Or just incompetent.

  7. April 17, 2012 5:02 pm

    That’s a very well thought-out eating strategy. I’m impressed.
    I don’t think I’d enjoy eating in total darkness. In any case, if it’s a super-fancy restaurant probably the only person who I’d be going with is my step-dad, and he’s always spilling and knocking things over even when all the lights are on. Taking him into that environment would be very unwise.

    And how are you supposed to signal to somebody if you’re choking. You can’t talk while choking.

  8. April 18, 2012 8:37 pm

    Now I want to look up their menu! How does one find the toilet?

    Like a child, a patron needs to ask to be led to and from the toilet.

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