Dining (and dating) in the dark: Be careful what you put in your mouth

There are restaurants where people dine in complete and utter darkness. The idea is that without sight, your other senses are heightened and the meal becomes a unique, sensual experience. In the name of research, we made a reservation at Opaque in San Francisco to see what happens when you and a date can’t see what’s happening.

How dark is it? Pitch black. There is no acclimating because there is no light whatsoever. You can hold a hand an inch in front of your eyes and not see it.

How do you order if you can’t see a menu? A host greets you with a menu before you go in. You can select specific items or make a game of it and choose the mystery menu to guess what you’re eating.

How do you get to your table? The servers are blind or visually impaired and they’re specially trained to guide you. You form a single-file line and place one hand on the shoulder in front of you. You’re then led past a velvet curtain, through a tiny maze, and into the unlit dining room. You think you’re going to fall or walk into walls, so it requires instant, intense trust.

How do they get the food and drinks to you? The servers coach you on where your hands will meet theirs when they have something for you. Then it’s up to you to maneuver utensils, the breadbasket, etc. This is when things get interesting. You grab a piece of bread and your fingers end up in the butter. You think the mystery amuse bouche has goat cheese in it and your date tastes hummus.

How do you get things into your mouth? With your fingers. Or you can try to bring your fork to your mouth, but you may often find that there’s nothing on it. You’ll probably wonder what you look like handling things like steak (it’s pre-cut) and mashed potatoes, but it doesn’t matter. No one will see you. We drew the line at ice cream though. For that, we worked it out with our spoons.

Is it more sensual? Kind of. It’s a very unique experience and it’s disorienting. This makes for some good bonding with your date. And doing stuff without anyone seeing can feel delightfully naughty. But dining in the dark wasn’t as sensual as touching and tasting someone in the bedroom. It was fun and entertaining, but not necessarily a turn on.

Do couples let their hands wander? Is everyone making out? According to our server, yes and yes. Friends who’ve been say they definitely took advantage of the dark and indulged in some romantic moves. But it should be noted: If your date touches your knee under the table, you may just shriek like a startled four year old afraid of the tickle monster.

Tips: You will drop stuff. Wear black. Make sure your hands are clean before you’re seated. This is not for the claustrophobic. It’s great if you like eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. Our hearing was definitely heightened.

If you want to go: They have versions of Opaque in LA, NYC, SF, Dallas, and San Diego. You can also dine in the dark in Switzerland, Thailand, and all over the world.

Have you tried it? Would you spend a night out eating tuna tartare and chocolate cake in the dark with your date? We’d love to know what you think.

Bon appétit,

P.S. Have you tried out our appointment reminders? We’ll help you get there on time.

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