Sensing a trend: Restaurants turn out the lights

The concept of dining in complete darkness is not unique to Grand Junction.

In fact, dining in darkness has become a trendy concept at some restaurant around the world. The restaurants employ blind or visually-impaired servers to help diners navigate through a world where vision has vanished.

The restaurant first credited with turning out the lights to heighten the senses is Switzerland’s Blindekuh, which opened in 1999 with a blind wait staff.

Travel Channel’s popular host Andrew Zimmern blogged about his experience at Blindekuh on April 15, 2010, at http://www.andrewzimmern.com.

Zimmern wrote that the concept of Blindekuh was to promote the “culture of blindness and mutual understanding between sighted and blind in our society” while simultaneously generating a source of income for the blind.

In terms of the food, he did not know what he ate and the mystery was part of the experience.

However, Zimmern noted that for great conversation, maybe it’s more important to talk to the people at the table instead of about what’s on the table.

The concept of dining in the dark has popped up in other countries including Germany, Russia, Israel and the United States.

In the largest U.S. cities, restaurants have been opened solely for dining in the dark.

New York City’s CamaJe Bistro doesn’t turn out the lights but blindfolds its patrons, much like the Center for Independence plans to do with its “Dine in the Blind” event.

At Opaque, a restaurant chain in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, the lights are out.

Restaurant officials say they are “enhancing our senses of taste, smell, touch and hearing by abandoning one (sense) that we often take for granted…,” according to Opaque’s website, http://www.darkdining.com.

The three-course menu is set at $99 per diner. Patrons are served by a trained wait staff of blind or visually-impaired men and women. Cell phones are not allowed.

Much like the organizers for the local “Dine in the Blind” event, officials at Opaque restaurants want diners to enjoy the experience while realizing what it would be like to have impaired vision.

Among the menu choices at Opaque: heirloom tomato cucumber salad with a bite of prosciutto and melon, seared ahi tuna steak topped with mango sauce and chicken broth sticky rice, and warm chocolate lava cake with fresh fruit in mint sugar and vanilla whipped cream.

“After all, the best things in life are not always what you see,” the Opaque website says.



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