Genevieve PM Roy
O.NOIR dining in the dark experience can be quite "enlightening"O.Noir provides a setting in which you can live one of the most unusual dining experiences you will ever have: Eating in the pitch dark !
In the highly competitive restaurant industry where innovation reigns, sometimes knowing how to distinguish yourself from your competitors can be daunting… One concept restaurant in Montreal offers guests a unique dining experience.
O.Noir provides a setting in which you can live one of the most unusual dining experiences you will ever have: Eating in the pitch dark !
Designed to engage all of the senses except for sight, patrons select courses from a set menu of simple, upscale dishes based around steak, chicken, pasta, and seafood or instead, have a dish selection made for them --- if you will excuse the expression: blindly.
Upon arrival, guests are welcomed into a well preserved 1970s lounge that has been transformed into a windowless waiting area. Orders are placed in the lighted front lobby bar once all coats, bags, lighted watches and cell phones have been removed and secured in one of the provided lockers. Diners can either choose from a two-course meal for $34.50 or $41.00 for a three-course option.
Once orders have been placed, you get to meet your server - who you will soon realize is blind. In order to seat you, he'll ask you to place your hands on his shoulder, while he leads you into the pitch black dining room.
The dining space is kept in total darkness Eating in the dark allows you to fully appreciate a dish's flavor without focusing on its appearance and instead helps you grow attuned to the food’s subtle tastes and textures. This dining experience also serves another purpose—to help you get a taste of what it's like to live without sight.
Food and drinks are presented with a gentle tap on your shoulder and are handed over to you carefully. The experience can become very tactile as diners are encouraged to eat however they choose - whether with hands or utensils.
In my specific case, I found relying entirely on cutlery posed a real challenge in finding my food on my plate and not leaving too much behind. The surprise entree was the most difficult to navigate, however my main course lamb shank was succulent, well-cooked and easy to handle thanks to the ample bone. I went with the surprise option for dessert, which was pretty readily identifiable and quite delicious.
I was happy to learn that O.Noir operates a nut-free kitchen! The staff members were polite and helpful while the blind servers were efficient and funny, making the guests line up in train formation to use the restrooms and to find their seats.
An unexpected aspect of the experience was the amount of mental energy spent trying to figure out the table dimensions and floor plan of the restaurant as well as guessing just who those lively people on the other side of the room might be!
This socially conscious concept initially sprang from Swiss blind pastor Jorge Spielmann, who used to blindfold his dinner guests so that they may partake in his eating experience. In 1999, Spielmann opened Blindekuh (German for Blind Cow), a project aimed at teaching the sighted about the sightless world, and provide jobs for blind people. His idea sparked a new culinary trend on an international scale.
Moe Alameddine brought the sightless dining concept to Canada when he opened the first O.Noir in 2006 in Montreal and then a second one in Toronto in 2009. O.Noir Montreal has since partnered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind which provides the visually-impaired with mainstream job skills. A percentage of O.Noir’s profits are given to support local associations that serve blind and visually impaired people of all ages.
For Jazz lovers, every Sunday, “Les Ombres” a jazz band composed of blind musicians, serenade diners as they enjoy their dinner in the dark.
For those seeking new and unique culinary experiences, an evening at O.Noir will prove to be quite the “enlightening” experience !
For more information on reservations and opening hours please consult:
1631 Ste Catherine West corner Guy.