“How about trying our Dine in the Dark Bangkok experience…?”, the staff at Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit quipped while I was pondering about my next meal for the day.
The moment that she mentioned those words, I got ecstatic! After all, it was easy to picture what she meant because I have already heard of this concept before, and I knew that it would be quite a unique and interesting dining affair. Add the fact that I haven’t had the chance to try it yet; so naturally, it was a fast and easy ‘yes‘ from me!
FYI: Dining in the dark (or dark dining/blind dining) is a dining experience in a non-lit restaurant where customers CANNOT see the food that they are eating (but there are some restaurants that blindfold their customers instead).
The main idea for this is to enhance the other senses as well as increase gastronomic pleasure by removing the element of vision. On the other hand, other dark dining restaurants aim to convey the experience of blindness to the customers. Besides, most of these venues commonly employ blind or visually impaired people as their waiters and guides.
Info about Dine in the Dark Bangkok
Influenced by the pioneering restaurant in Zurich, it aims to raise awareness about blindness as well as raise funds for local charities dedicated to enriching the lives of the visually impaired (such as Thailand’s Foundation for the Blind’).
- Price & Style: THB 1,450++ per person’s set meal, 4-course fine dining
- Address: 250 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, 10110, Thailand
- Contact Details: +6626498358 / +6626498888 / [email protected]
- Opening Hours: 6:00PM to 9:30PM (last order) from Monday to Saturday
- Note: Recommended for children 12 years of age or older, and accompanied by parents.
Dine in the Dark is nestled within Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit’s gastro lounge: BarSu. But before going in, my companion and I were first ushered to a table by the bar so that one of the restaurant’s guides can provide us with a brief explanation of their concept and rules:
- A visually-impaired waiter/waitress will be assigned to you. Once inside, it will be TOTALLY dark but just follow their instructions and you’ll be fine!
- They offer 4 delicious 4-course set meals and you can choose which one you would like best to eat: Asian, Western, Vegetarian or Surprise (the chef will serve you his choice dishes for the day which can be a mix of anything).
- You must inform them if you have any allergies or if there are any ingredients that you cannot eat.
- It’s recommended to go in without any of your belongings; rest assured, the staff can keep it for you and you can claim it after.
- If you don’t want to part with your mobile phones, for example, you must turn it off and you must NOT use it while inside the dining area (or else, you’ll ruin the whole thing for everyone).
- If you have any luminous items on you (such as watches, etc.), you must remove them as well.
Obviously, I chose ‘Surprise’ to make the guesswork even more exciting later on!
When this discussion was done with, they gave us black aprons to wear. Afterwards, they ushered us to the entrance of Dine in the Dark where we finally got to meet our waitress and guide for the night, Noi. She was a very sweet lady and she welcomed us with a warm smile. (I found out later that she was blind since birth and that she also spent some time studying in England for years).
For our first instruction, Noi told us to put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us. Since I was nearer to her, I took her shoulder and my companion took mine. When we were all ready, Noi continued to part the heavy black curtains to the restaurant and the pitch-black darkness slowly engulfed us as we walked in.
We first had to go down a few steps and it was at this point that I slowly became nostalgic of the times when I played hide-and-seek as a child — or the times when I visited haunted houses in theme parks. I started to feel a bit anxious with the memories of the latter (I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat) especially when I realized that there was NO way that my sight could adjust to the darkness ahead of me!
It really was 100% dark inside.
Nevertheless, it was easy to shake the uneasiness away because my feelings of excitement and wonder were far greater! Besides, Noi just simply made me feel at ease too — not to mention, her English accent was superb.
Once we reached our table, Noi seated me and my companion side by side and then she proceeded to guide our hands in order to get us acquainted with our cutlery. To cut the story short, what followed after this were the steady serving of the courses, the additional instructions of Noi per dish, and the constant exchange of banter with my companion.
“Oh my god, what did I just touch?”
“It’s so hard to eat with a spoon and fork in this darkness.”
“I don’t know about you but I’ve been using my hands all this time.”
“This definitely tastes like fish.”
“No way, the texture seems different.”
“You’re still there right? Helloooo? *reaches out*”
“Haha, yes, I’m here.”
“Okay, I’m trying to look for my fork.”
“Good luck, I pray you don’t bump over your glass.”
Needless to say, even if it was nerve-wracking at first, it slowly turned out to be an incredibly fun experience!
After everything was done with, Noi guided us back to BarSu and we said our goodbyes. One of the staff joined us again and showed us the photos of the 4-course meal that we had — however, I won’t tell you what they were because I don’t want to spoil the fun!
Either way, we had some good laughs on the wrong guesses that we had. Yet again… I gotta give myself a pat on the back for this one because I guessed most of the ingredients right. Yay!
I knew what was going to happen and what I was getting into, but nothing could have ever prepared me for the actual experience of Dine in the Dark itself! Sure, it was unsettling at first… but the opportunity to wholly get in touch with my senses (except one) and to be in total darkness while eating was surreal.
First of all, it took away all the other unnecessary distractions: all of my focus was either on the food in front of me, or on my companion. So yes — gone were the urges of fiddling with my phone, taking photos of my food, getting distracted with my surroundings, etc.
It was refreshing!
But I gotta admit: at first, I didn’t believe in the idea of how dark dining could heighten my senses, especially that of taste. I just thought, “How can it be any different?” Well… I was totally wrong! Every bite that I took gave me a new and rare sense of recognition for the flavor and texture of the food that I was eating — which mind you, were all so delicious!
I truly have come to realize that it did help to have no vision at all because most of my concentration was on my tastebuds as I tried to make out what I was consuming.
It felt a bit funny though to touch my food at times… knowing that what I was going through was a fine dining affair. Nevertheless, Noi encouraged it and I’m glad she did because it helped make things more enjoyable! I’m no stranger to eating food with my fingers anyway, so it was fine. (My fellow Asians would understand, haha.)
But of course, all in all, it was challenging to dine this way because it involved imagination and guesswork. It got easier as time passed on — yet still and the same, I have surely come to understand some of the challenges that pose for having one or more of the senses taken away.
• • •
Dine in the Dark was a fun, intimate and unique dining affair that I would absolutely recommend especially when you’re in Bangkok. The chef also regularly changes the menu so it won’t be a problem if you come and visit for several times more.
So with that said and done… what are you waiting for? Come and enjoy this sensory delight where you can experience a new and exciting way to dine!
(After all, it’s also well worth the money; and with your contribution, you’re going to help raise funds for local charities for the visually impaired. Sounds like a great deal if you ask me!)