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I Dined In The Dark At Toronto's ONoir Restaurant & Here's Why It Was My Toughest Meal Yet

It was not what I was expecting, at all!

Toronto Associate Editor
Mira Nabulsi at O.Noir in Toronto. Right: Toronto skyline.

Mira Nabulsi at O.Noir in Toronto. Right: Toronto skyline.

This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.

Eating in the dark might sound like an exciting experience but in reality, it's a lot tougher than you might think.

Toronto's O.Noir experience is a restaurant where customers sit in a completely dark room and enjoy a meal. But the experience is based on the theory that your sense of taste is stronger when you can't see what you're eating.

Have you ever heard someone say, "Close your eyes and try this"? Well, some believe that when you eliminate one of your five senses, the others are heightened.

"When you eat food in the dark, your remaining senses are heightened to savour the smell and taste of food," founder Moe Alameddine says on O.Noir's website.

But what makes this unique experience interesting is that all the wait staff are visually impaired, and "after 1-2 hours in complete darkness, customers gain a better understanding of what it's like to be blind," according to the website.

According to CNIB, around 500,000 Canadians are blind or partially sighted, so the idea behind the restaurant is super meaningful and a great way to remind people that some live in darkness. With that being said, I did not enjoy my experience at all.

What is the O.Noir experience like?

My two friends decided to surprise me for my birthday with an experience worth remembering, and their wish certainly came true because we went in April 2018, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

The Toronto location of O.Noir is located at 620 Church St. Once inside, you're taken to a lit room where you're able to choose from the menu provided, and a host explains what happens next.

Once the server has taken your order, they walk you into the dark room, which is seriously pitch-black.

The three of us held hands and the server walked us over to our table, where they explained to us our surroundings.

At first, it was interesting because I don't think I've ever been in a room that dark in my life. But slowly, my mind began striving to find any sort of light. It was just pitch black. No light from the entrance, no windows, no status lights from electronics... nothing.

My friends and I started talking about how our eyes felt painful because there was nothing to focus on, so we practiced speaking with our eyes closed and tried to talk about things other than the darkness.

We tried to figure out if other tables were near us and how close they were by waving our arms around, but we felt nothing.

There was chatter, so we assumed others were around us, but then I thought it could be coming from a speaker, which frightened me.

Is the food at O.Noir good?

When we were in the main room, I ordered the penne because I thought it might be the easiest thing to eat in the dark.

Spoiler alert! I was wrong. I was basically chewing on my fork most of the time.

My friends ordered the surprise vegetarian dish and the steak. But there are many options to choose from in the Toronto location that can be found on their website.

My pasta wasn't as great as I thought it would be. It was cold and not too flavourful, so my experience with the food wasn't too great, mainly because there was so much hype about how great food tastes when you close your eyes.

My friends weren't enjoying their dishes either. The three of us haven't gone back since.

What is it like eating in the dark?

The food was brought out to us a few moments after settling in — not sure when exactly because we had no concept of time.

At the start, I was actually served the steak and only realized after taking a bite, but by that time, the server wasn't there to help us change the plates around, and we couldn't wave to grab their attention either.

By the way, changing plates in the dark is much more complicated than it seems. It would've been a recipe for disaster if we had both gotten up and carried the plates across to one another.

So instead, we came up with a genius plan. I'll move the plate up on the table, you bring it across, and then we'll push them to one another. Bulletproof, isn't it? Nope. It was chaos. There were other items on the table that made this process difficult.

The struggles did not end there. Ordering pasta felt like a brilliant idea at first, but it's tough to eat when it's dark because you can't poke it and guarantee anything will be on the fork.

After a few attempts and empty forkfuls — don't judge me — I started eating my pasta with my hands. It was funny at first but then quickly it became a mess, and I just lost my appetite.

At this point, the so-called theory was officially debunked.

Would I ever go to O.Noir again?

ONoir in Toronto.

ONoir in Toronto.

Mira Nabulsi | Narcity

Honestly, I wouldn't go back to O.Noir because it just wasn't for me. The last few moments in the room were especially challenging, and I've remembered how I felt ever since.

Once we were done eating, the room suddenly became quiet, and the fear and anxiety started closing in on me. I was actually afraid of being in the room any longer. The space felt like I was in a vortex.

I started freaking out and calling for someone to come help me, but there was no one in the room. So, my friends tried to calm me down, and when the server came back, we asked to leave.

When thinking back about my experience, I do remind myself that this is how a lot of blind people live every day without having the choice to leave.

I'm glad I tried it, but I'd never visit the dark restaurant again. This isn't for everyone because it's a challenging experience, but learning more about a blind person's life without vision was very insightful.

    Mira Nabulsi
    Toronto Associate Editor
    Mira Nabulsi is an Associate Editor for Narcity Canada’s Ontario Desk focused on cheap travel from Toronto and is based in Toronto, Ontario.
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