The sun was setting and I was driving my rental car down the Don Valley Parkway, inevitably towards downtown Toronto traffic. I like to think driving downtown is akin to sitting on a crowded airplane; It eventually gets you where you need to go, only with ample stress, and plenty of sitting still. While normally avoiding the city centre at all costs, I was on a mission to get downtown for a fancy dinner with my good friend Alyssa.
While I was out in the working world, Alyssa had been living and studying to become a teacher in Canada’s number one city. We’ve been friends for quite a few years, so when I asked her to join me for dinner at a specialty restaurant, she jumped at the idea.
A few days prior, we’d made our reservations at O’Noir, located on Church street, just North of the village. While we classed the evening as a fancy affair, there was no reason to dress up. Why? Because we’d be dining in complete darkness.
Originally available to residents of Montreal, O’Noir had made an appearance in Toronto, and we wanted to see what all the hype was about. We had only heard rumours so far; the enhancement of flavours due to the deprivation of senses, the wait staff moving with precision around the dining room, and something about night vision goggles – we wanted to see if they were true.
Getting Ready To Eat
Arriving at the restaurant, we noticed that it was dark, yet not that dark. We could still see each other. Fortunately though, this was simply the waiting area to be brought into the dining room. Barely able to see the menus, we preordered our food and drinks at the bar, and after five minutes were called to the door of the dining room.
We were introduced to our waiter, who was blind from birth, and instructed to follow him through the dining room. Alyssa placed her hand on his shoulder, I placed mine on hers, and together we entered the double doors into the pitch black dining room.
Despite not being able to see, the soundscape made for a clear map of the room. A couple enjoying their food to the left, silverware clinking to the right, and a large party of guests straight ahead. After twists, turns, and what felt like an eternity of shuffling, we arrived at our table, extended our hands to find our chairs, and sat down.
Our waiter introduced us to our table – something I’ve never had happen before. He explained where everything was, and encouraged us to reach out and touch it to feel. Previously I had thought forks and knives would make too dangerous of tools in this light absent dining room, but there they were on the table, all ready for me to poke my eye out.
As our waiter left us, we started to make conversation about how surreal the experience was. Alyssa sat maybe a meter in front of me, but I couldn’t see a thing. We reached out towards each other and grabbed hands at several occasions, just to make sure the other was still there.
Our meals came course by course, and I was surprised to tell that the absence of our sight actually did improve the flavour – or maybe it was just really good steak, who knows. We had quite a bit of trouble at first cutting the food and getting it into our mouths, but soon became experts at the practice.
Whilst chewing a bit of my food, Alyssa asked me a question. Unable to respond immediately I stayed quiet, to which she asked “Ryder, are you still here?”. At that point, I had to stay quiet and stifle my laughter to see where silence took me. “Stop that, right now, so freaky” she snapped. It was strange to see how simply not speaking removed yourself from the table completely.
At several points in the night, we kept thinking we were seeing lights, but it turns out it was just our imagination, as determined by scientific testing at the table; except for the guy who kept using his watch to illuminate the table next to us. If you’re reading this – not cool, sir.
With the end of our night approaching, our waiter escorted us out in the same manner that we came in. The previously dark waiting room was now a blinding light to our eyes, and we gladly paid the check, and left, giddy about the whole experience.
If you ever find yourself in Toronto, I do recommend you check out this unique culinary experience – truly a unique way to experience dinner.