We were lucky and grateful to get a seat at what is definitely be one of Vancouver’s more alternative eateries on opening weekend. The premise of Dark Table – well as the name might lead you to believe you sit at a table, in the pitch darkness and are served by servers who are legally blind. An interesting concept which was started by the owner Moe Alameddine who has a similar restaurant, O.Noir , located in Montreal and Toronto. Why sit in the dark, unable to see the splendid food before you, the fork and knife tucked either side of your plate or the charming company that you are seated with? The idea is to experience the food, shut off one sense and automatically hide the others. Surprisingly I found that I was studying the food more, I took my time to actually taste it and had great conversation with my plus one minus the worrying of “do I have spinach in my teeth” or oh dear everyone can see just how much of a messy eater I really am..
The Experience: (because that is how best to describe our encounter with the darkness) It all began by us being seated in the patio outside the restaurant and being given the menu. The menu had two options for diners Option 1: Main with either a starter or desert or Option 2: the full three courses. Of course being the professional restaurant reviewer that I am I opted for Option 2. The choices were narrow, the starter and dessert were both dubbed as a surprise and then you had 4 dishes to choose from for you main, beef tenderloin with peppercorn sauce, a stuffed chicken breast with a zesty jus, veal and risotto for all the vegetarians present. I would say this is not a place that caters for vegans, for now anyway. Something else to note from the menu, on the drinks list you will find the noticeable absence of alcohol. As of right now the restaurant is not permitted or licensed to sell alcohol, although they are hoping to rectify this issue and are looking into the option of having the diner bring in their own wine. However, I found it to be a refreshing change and happily sat drinking my water and diet coke.
When our table was ready we were called to the door where we met our server Rose. Rose led us inside to the dining hall and had us place our hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of us. As this was being explained to us the door shut behind us and we were entrenched in the darkness. I won’t lie to you, the feeling that flew through my body in that very moment was definitely one of panic and terror. I guess we are so used to relying on our eyes and what we are able to see being our main source of reassurance, it is quite an unnerving experience to have that taken away and to lose control of the situation. We had to rely on Rose to guide us to our table, which she did quickly and efficiently. She sat us down one by one and explained how the evening was going to continue. She asked had we ordered drinks and promptly went to the back to retrieve them and bring us bread. The set up of the table in front of us, which we know is there only by touch, and then explained that if we needed anything or wanted to use the washroom we simply had to say her name and she would be there. She politely excused herself and went to grab our drinks. Then we were alone, it was now I really steadied myself and calmed myself down mainly by studying the table in front of my with my hands, chatting to my guest and letting go of that need we all have to be in control of the situation with our eyes. Once I had this done it was rather exciting, a whole new experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Guests were all brought to their tables in the same fashion as we were and a party arrived while we were eating with one member in particular who sounded very nervous about the whole thing. That is something which Rose told us to note, everyone did tend to get a little louder in the darkness.
The Food: To start there was a roasted vegetables medley topped with parmesan. This course may seem very basic however the texture of the food was something that definitely stood out for me. I chose the beef for my main course (medium/well my personal preference to how it was to be prepared.)It was accompanied by vegetables and roast potatoes topped with peppercorn sauce. Finally desert was also a surprise; it was chocolate fudge cake with a side of vanilla ice cream. The food was basic, nothing overly lavish – it wasn’t attempting to be decadent. It was a menu that was designed to please everyone; however variety was not a key concept for this restaurant.
The food to me was okay, I can’t rave that my taste buds were dancing in jubilant joy to the flavor of the food. My palette did focus a lot on texture and I did not over eat, which can be the case for most diners when given a plate filled with food. However, if I were to be honest, the food in itself was a little bit disappointing. The beef was a bit bland, and the ice cream seemed to be a little frost bitten. The meal was fine, and definitely worth the money spent however my guest and I were a little saddened that we didn’t come away from our meal raving about how great the food is. I guess though that since the experience as a whole was so out of the ordinary and very definitely exciting, that we had hoped that the food would be just as out of the box and exciting.
This restaurant would be great for a date, perhaps a second and not a first in case your new significant other is not a darkness lover and is truly terrified. However the perks of this dining spot being date friendly are: you don’t need to worry too much about etiquette; you fumble a bit and laugh it off. Spinach in your teeth is not a problem here and last but not least you can just enjoy a simple yet wonderful conversation with your party. There is less distraction; your only real sense of security is to speak to whomever you came with (although I know you would hope that would be the case anyway) and once you get going you really listen and some great conversation can be had knowing that the other person is really listening.
In Conclusion: The experience was amazing; it was like nothing I have been witness to before. The level of care taken by the servers is above any I have experienced before (our server Rose was a truly wonderful lady) and the menu, although not Michelin rated, was just fine. If you do happen down 4th avenue of an evening and would like to try something a little bit different park yourself at dark tables front door. You will be talking about it for weeks, trust me.