Try the blackened salmon

There are several things I do fairly well in the dark, and a few I may not have done especially well but greatly enjoyed while they were going on. Except as prelude, however, none of them involved going out to dinner:

Imagine a San Francisco dining experience like no other. In a pitch-black dining room, each flavor and texture greets enthusiastic senses hungry for an awareness once brought by sight. This is Opaque, San Francisco’s first dark dining restaurant.

A brilliant experimental dining concept that originated in Europe, dark dining allows food to stir the senses in the most unique way. Each burst of spice, each hint of sweetness, each touch of tang stands out, yielding an entirely new appreciation of fine cuisine. Under the expert guidance of Chef de Cuisine Mike Whang (of the popular Indigo Restaurant), the menu at Opaque in San Francisco cultivates a multi-sensory adventure with an array of options woven into a three-course prix fixe meal.

And a good thing it’s prix fixe, too, because I’d hate to pore over the menu under those conditions.

But maybe I’m just missing the point:

Upon arrival at their allotted reservation time, guests will begin their journey into depravation by turning off all cell phones and checking any purses or bags with the hostess in the lounge, since they’ll not be needed in the dark dining room. Guests are welcomed to relax in the lighted lounge, order a round of specialty cocktails and select the three courses that will make up their prix fixe menu. Once they have ordered, they’ll be guided into the darkened dining room for a dining experience unlike any other. While not all patrons dine at the same time, great care is taken to make sure that the seating of other tables does not disrupt the experience for those who are already seated. Guests will be guided and served by visually impaired individuals that have been specially trained to serve in the dark and tend to the varying needs of each patron in a comfortable and reassuring way.

Okay, that explains the menu. But where do they find “visually impaired” waitstaff? Do they advertise on craigslist or in the Chronicle? And how long does it take them to figure out if you’re a rotten tipper?

Still, as the saying goes, you knock out one sense, the other four compensate:

A highly sensual experience, dining at Opaque challenges the way patrons perceive their surroundings and cuisine. Feeling for a fork, running fingers along inviting tabletops, recognizing only the voices of companions, drawing in sweet and savory aromas, identifying each ingredient and spice as they eclipse the palate.

“Oh, lord, what did I just dunk the end of my tie into?”

Maybe I’ll just order a pizza at sunset and forget to turn on the lights.

(Via John Rosenberg.)


  1. Jeffro »

    5 September 2009 · 11:11 am

    How jaded do you have to be to not want to see your food?

  2. CGHill »

    5 September 2009 · 11:12 am

    The original title for this, incidentally, was “Where to take a blind date,” but I decided that was a bit much.

  3. fillyjonk »

    5 September 2009 · 11:44 am

    I admit to being one of those tiresome people who is a bit put off by food “touching” – or by not-knowing what’s in that sauce on the chicken. So this type of restaurant would rank pretty high on my list of “potential nightmare experiences.” (Add in a few oddball food sensitivities – things where I can usually eliminate the offending food from the dish if I spot it – and it could be a recipe for trouble.)

  4. unimpressed »

    5 September 2009 · 1:12 pm

    I’ve done exactly this while in the field in the Service. Trust me, eating rations in the dark did NOT improve the meal. That last ice storm that had my power off for a week and a half did nothing to improve my dining experience(s) then, either.

    I honestly can’t see that this silliness would be worth the obligatory inflated price for the “novelty”.

  5. Lisa Paul »

    5 September 2009 · 11:19 pm

    I’ve actually experienced this type of thing — no not at this restaurant although I live in SAn Francisco. I was at a Yoga retreat and was suckered into a “mindful eating” dinner, which only after they locked the doors did I realize was going to include lights out.

    I’m here to tell you, a good bit of the pleasure of food is seeing it: the color, the presentation, the shapes.

    I can’t imagine a real chef who would force his guest to forego that part of the experience.

    With blind tasting after blind tasting showing that people who can’t see it, can’t even tell a white wine from a red wine, well can they also tell a pork chop from a hamburger?

    Phooey, stupid gimmick.

  6. CGHill »

    5 September 2009 · 11:30 pm

    Most days, I’m doing well to distinguish between Coke and Pepsi with the lights on.

  7. zigzag »

    6 September 2009 · 7:24 am

    “guests will begin their journey into depravation”
    depraved, not deprived ?
    maybe I need to check out this place …

  8. CGHill »

    6 September 2009 · 10:02 am

    Shades of Officer Krupke! I saw that, wondered if I should throw a [sic] in there to indicate “Yes, they really said that,” but decided to leave it be.

  9. CT »

    6 September 2009 · 12:26 pm

    Throw in some ninjas waiters, and I’m all over this.

  10. Charles Pergiel »

    7 September 2009 · 11:22 am

    depravation? Depravation? Really?

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