I had never before had a dinner quite like our last in Vancouver, so it warranted this very special post.
I had no idea what I was in for…
First, it must be prefaced that I love surprises (good ones). Our entire weekend in Vancouver was largely a mystery to me; Aaron planned it all (he could be a travel agent; he’s quite good at it). Aaron also planned most of our trip to Japan. He even arranged an elaborate road trip down to San Francisco; if you’re curious, you can read some of those adventures here.
I didn’t know what to expect when we rode our bikes out to Kitsilano and pulled up in front of Dark Table. I recognized the brail adorning the exterior, but I didn’t make the connection. Boy, was I in for a surprise!
Selecting our meal
I thought it was a bit odd we made our dinner selections in the waiting area on the patio just outside the front door, but I was thrilled that “surprise me!” was on the menu. I ordered a chicken entree (stuffed with goat cheese, dates, and a light maple drizzle – yum!), but I picked the surprise for the appetizer, drink (a different surprise with each order), and dessert. We were able to tell them our dietary restrictions (gluten-free), and they’d do the rest. This was perfect for a surprisephile such as myself!
We waited only a few minutes more, while I pondered this strange start to our dining experience. Finally, our name was called, and all was revealed… or not revealed.
Our dark table
We were introduced to our server, Rose (“like the Titantic,” she said – which is why I remember it!), and we entered through black curtains.. to darkness beyond.
The entire room was pitch black; not a single pinprick of light betrayed anything of the outside world. No windows, no emergency exit signs, no cracks under doors. It sounded like you would expect a restaurant to – clanking of forks against dishes and cheerful conversational chatter. But everything was completely dark.
Rose is blind. And for the next hour or so, so were we.
Rose led us to our table, where we proceeded to familiarize ourselves with our surroundings. We felt our table and speculated on how many others might be in the room based on the noise. My drink arrived, and I took a tentative sip. My mouth was rewarded with a refreshingly light and slightly fruity cocktail. Feeling in the bowl that was also placed in before me, I discovered a salad.
How it feels to eat blind
I found it remarkable how losing my sight completely changed my dining experience.
Tastes were heightened. I think that’s what shocked me most. Without the distraction of sight, I picked up on every subtle flavor. I reached the bottom of my drink to be surprised by something small and round that rolled to my lips. Too small to be a cherry, not tart enough to be a cranberry – a blueberry! My drink had blueberries at the bottom!
We couldn’t use sight to see if we had gotten all of the food off the plates; we had to use our fingers. Aaron and I always swap sips of our drinks, and that was fun to coordinate. It took more time and lots of communication to not wind up with one of them in our laps.
We likewise shared bites of our entrees. The process – from loading the fork to navigating handing it to him across the table and back – was a new challenge.
Quality of the food
The food at Dark Table was absolutely delectable. Expertly prepared. Every morsel was heaven in my mouth, only made better by my inability to visually judge it. Fortunately, it also came pre-chopped into bite-sized pieces. I can’t imagine how I would navigate a knife blind; those who have lost their sight are amazing! And visual presentation wasn’t a concern. Who knows how it looked on the plate? For once it didn’t matter.
Cuisine of this caliber doesn’t come cheap – our three courses ran us about $42 per person – but I can declare without a doubt or regret in mind that it was worth every single penny.
Our desert arrived – a small bowl atop a plate.. ice cream! A perfect end to a wonderful meal.
Rose was a delight. She had a sharp sense of humor and was happy to answer our curious questions (no, the kitchen isn’t dark – the cooks can see – and no, blind customers aren’t particularly drawn to this restaurant as it isn’t anything different to them). She made the experience very enjoyable. From the moment we were led beyond the curtain, she was there to guide us – to our table, to the bathroom, and back outside. I found it humbling to be the one in need of assistance, and I now have a greater respect for the blind.
Rose even asked us for additional gluten-free dessert ideas for the restaurant, as they’re always looking for new ideas, especially for those with dietary restrictions. I suggested a berry crisp (to which she fervently agreed). Such a simple indication that the restaurant cares so much for their patrons made me anxious to return to Dark Table, and it’s only one of the reasons I implore others to visit when they’re in the area.
Returning to the light
Reentering the world of light was somewhat jarring. I was glad for my sunglasses – just before sundown. And when I pulled out my leftovers the next day, I almost wanted to close my eyes to enjoy it as I had initially.
It may seem odd to post about being temporarily blind on a photography blog. But it was a very humbling experience, and it made me even more thankful for my sight. We were completely helpless in that restaurant. We couldn’t even get to the bathroom without assistance, and we were entirely at the mercy of the blind. It was a bizarre reversal.
Without my sight, I would be out a passion. I can’t picture a day without photography in my life, and after this experience, I treasure it all the more. Fortunately, Vancouver was out in all her splendor that evening, so I was able to satisfy my desire to shoot after the absolute darkness.
Who knew being blind could show me so much?