Dinner in the dark

Dark Table is a restaurant that opened its doors on Monday, Oct. 18 and serves high-class meals to diners in complete darkness, served by blind waiters.
This concept seriously intrigued me, so I knew I wanted to write a story about it for The Weal. I did some research on the restaurant, read articles about it and immediately ran into a problem.
How could I possibly write something that wasn’t just a rehash of what every other reviewer was saying? How could I make this different and unique, and give The Weal readers the story they deserve? Finally, it hit me.
I would go eat in complete darkness.
I knew I didn’t want to go alone, so I asked my brother, Connor Taylor, if he wanted to come with me.
“I have very strong and mixed opinions about this,” he said.
“On the one hand, it seems like an interesting concept. Strip one of your senses so the others are heightened.
“On the other hand, I’m a baby and afraid of the dark.”
After some teasing from me (gentle brotherly bullying is an art), he agreed to come.
“Technically, I’m not afraid of the dark. If I’m in my room and it’s dark, I’m fine.
“I’m afraid of not being able to see predators, the ones that will eat you, not the ones that want to touch your bum.”
I myself wasn’t so convinced this was a good idea. I heard too many horror stories of people who ate tampered-with food at restaurants. In those places, you could see what every fork had on its tongs. I shuddered to imagine someone playing some cruel trick.
Regardless, I made the reservation and, dragging my brother along, we went for dinner in the dark.
We opened the door and stepped into a dimly-lit waiting room with soft orange lights around the counter and deep, dramatic shadows along the corners. We approached the counter and a hostess handed us dinner and drink menus.
She explained that since the dining area is in complete darkness, we would be making our dinner selection in the waiting area, before being led to our table.
We both chose a two-course meal: AAA steak and a “surprise dessert.”
After making our choices, we were introduced to our waiter, who told us, as he led us to our table, that we’d be holding onto each other with our left hands on the left shoulder of the person ahead of us.
It was starting; there was no going back.
I put my hand on the waiter’s shoulder and we passed through two heavy black curtains into a room that, aside from the emergency exit sign that really offered no illumination, was completely dark.
Our waiter gently guided us to our seats and within minutes, our plates of steak arrived. It took both of us a couple of minutes to realize that accompanying the steaks were cubes of potato, deliciously seasoned with bits of cheese on top.
The steak was also absolutely delicious, and the experience of eating it in complete darkness meant a couple of things.
First, I ate about 75 per cent of my dinner with my hands because it turns out that blindly clattering your silverware around on a plate looking for food is really hard.
Second, the flavour and smell were the only things I was able to focus on, and it forced me to slow down and really enjoy the meal.
Next came our surprise dessert, which was not only a surprise because we didn’t know what it would be, but we both received something different.
It turns out what I ate was a blueberry cheesecake, although I would have been willing to bet money it was a lemon meringue pie. My brother had some chocolate cake.
Once we were finished, our waiter led us back to the waiting room where we paid for the meal.
It was not a cheap experience for me. For two dinners, two beers, and tip, it came out to be $104.53. I desperately hope somebody reads this and gets any kind of enjoyment from it, or else that was all for nothing.
Regardless, after paying, I talked to Sandy Tavares, the manager of Dark Table, about the restaurant.
“Our weekends are going crazy,” Tavares said, explaining that ever since opening their doors about a month ago, the restaurant has been doing very well.
She told me that the first Dark Table location opened in Vancouver around five years ago and, “figured Calgary would be the next big spot.”
“Calgary needed something unique. We’ve been starving for years,” Tavares said with a chuckle.
I asked her what thinking went behind employing the visually impaired as waiters and she thought about that for a moment before saying that it’s very hard for the visually impaired to find any kind of employment.
“The owner wanted to create a job opportunity for the visually impaired,” Tavares said.
She explained that Dark Table started as an idea to experience fine dining through the same experience that the blind do.
“Basically this restaurant was built for them.”
Although the servers at Dark Table are visually impaired, providing a great opportunity for them, the restaurant is not a charity.
It’s an interesting experience, but ultimately, Dark Table is a restaurant with a gimmick.
For $100, the experience was different, delicious and interesting enough that I enjoyed the night, but I likely won’t return.

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