“Place your hands on my shoulders and follow me.”
This unexpected command was the beginning of my Dining in the Dark experience. These were words which I never thought I would hear from a person who was severely visually impaired. But I followed my guide’s instructions, trusting him to lead me to my seat.
Dining In The Dark is a restaurant with an unusual and alluring concept. After being rolled in cities around the world, from Paris to London, it arrived in Kuala Lumpur last year. Customers experience an eye-opening (or perhaps, eye-closing) dinner as they eat in complete and utter darkness. The waiters and guides are either slightly or severely visually impaired.
As well as creating empathy and employment for those with visual impairments, Dining in the Dark promises a night that’s unlike any other dining experience.
I had convinced myself that my eyes would eventually adjust, but the darkness was overwhelming
After half an hour of games in the lobby hosted by Monica Lau of Dining In The Dark to test and enhance my senses other than sight, Thong, my visually impaired wait and guide, assisted me through a room of complete darkness.
At first, I was a bit nervous and anxious and I had convinced myself that my eyes would eventually adjust, but the darkness was so overwhelming that my eyes gave in and the rest of my senses lifted as I began to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Conversations from tables across were easily overheard, even without us trying to eavesdrop. “I really give you credit for being able to do anything in the dark,” said a customer to his waiter over at the next table. Yet, the waiters made it seem easy, as they served us our meals and even guided us to our utensils and plates.
The night progressed and the food kept coming, while the guests gradually got louder as a result of the darkness. My tastebuds were lifted to heights I had never experienced before. I lost complete interest in my utensils once I realised it was so much more fun and exhilarating to use my hands (this also helped me avoid poking my nose with a fork).
To add more elements of surprise, the fixed menu is changed once every month and diners do not know what they will be served. Customers are given the chance to speak up in advance (during booking/reservation) where allergies and other sensitive diet restrictions are concerned, but at Dining In The Dark, the idea is to undergo a whole new and unusual experience including tasting new flavours.
Every month, Head Chef, Isaac Leong creates mouthwatering, delicious menus of four courses: appetizer, soup, main and dessert. Last month’s theme was Italian, with a main course of gnocchi. As for this month, you’ll just have to find out yourself. We’ve been forbidden to spoil it for our readers.
The most enjoyable part of the meal and overall dining experience is the burst of flavours from the kitchen and the exciting conversations that arise with your peers when in complete darkness. The service is excellent, with the waiters preparing you with announcements before placing each plate or glass down to avoid any spillage and/or misunderstandings.
Reservations and bookings can be made online or via call for customers and guests from the ages 12 years and upwards. If you are looking for a quiet night for couples and families, Sunday night would be ideal. Whereas, if you are looking for a more upbeat night for a group of friends, even couples, Friday and Saturday night would be best.
Monica Lau confided that a number of blind dates have been held at the restaurant. On a couple of occasions, when one person felt no connection with the other, they would flee the scene, quite humorously leaving their date behind. It seems that looks aren’t everything – conversational connection is indeed a priority on any date.
Whether you’re looking for a fun night with friends or an intimate dinner with a partner, it’s important to be aware that the wait and guides attending to you are visually impaired. So, if accidents do occur within the premises, please be patient and understanding.
We can’t wait to find out what next month’s menu is all about. Chef Isaac Leong has got us hooked. Happy dining!
Each meal is priced at RM136.88 nett per person exclusive of drinks and RM150 nett per person including one drink. Find out more at Dining in The Dark KL’s website.
Words by Kathryn Rao and photos by Yuthika Peiris.