Dining in total darkness – gimmicky, right? Novel? Hmm, not so much. A food trend sweeping Asia? Definitely. We originally passed on reviewing NOX Dine in the Dark when it opened a few months ago. But feedback has been surprisingly good. So we doubled back to see what all the fuss is about. Here are six rules to know before you go.
1. No toys allowed
If your partner’s BlackBerry has been the uninvited third wheel at every meal out since the company first began producing these divorce-inducing instruments of the devil, you’re in luck. Before you ascend to the pitch black, second-storey dining room, you have to give up your devices. All your devices. Phones, cameras and anything else with the ability to compromise the restaurant’s mystique are stowed away in lockers below. That means you get your partner’s complete attention for a full two hours, no matter what is happening back at the office.
2. No bathroom breaks
Device-addicted partners may try to excuse themselves for a bathroom break not long after dinner has started. Clever. Except this little ruse won’t work here. Once you are at the table, you stay at the table. So visit the washroom early and be sure to give your hands a good wash. You’ll need clean fingers tonight (a well-placed thumb inside your water glass is the best measure for gauging the water level, for instance).
3. No annoying quirks
If your significant other is that person at the table that can never decide what to eat – you know, the Sally to your Harry, the person who incessantly asks for substitutions, deletions, additions, alterations and dressings “on the side” – here is your chance to cut their quirks out of the process. The menu is set. The restaurant can accommodate vegetarians, food allergies and those sorts of things, but this is where the options end.
4. No snarky attitudes
Don’t book a table just to tell all your friends that you tried it and that, yes, it was as lame as you had predicted it would be. Because chances are good you may just enjoy yourself. In fact, I’m not sure it is possible to avoid giggling like a timid schoolgirl as you lock arms with your companions and march in unison into a sea of blackness. I watched at least five different groups go before me, and no one was able to keep a straight face.
5. No teetotallers
The drinks at NOX are good, y’all. Really good. And since it’s mandatory to start dinner in the bar, you might as well be prepared to drink up. Cocktail glasses are served full (yeah – as in to the top), and fresh ingredients are shaken, squeezed, whipped and muddled with the casual confidence of a bartender who knows he knows what he’s doing. The drinks can be fiery, like the Ignite my Passion ($20), a sour blend of rum, fruit puree and allspice, which is served with a lit shot of alcohol inside a passion fruit rind.
6. No discussing the food once the meal is over
Here is what I’ll reveal: meals are served in three courses – appetisers, mains and desserts – with each course consisting of four different dishes. Dishes are served in small bowls arranged on a plate. You start at the bottom and eat in a clockwise fashion. You use silverware (hands are permitted, but be aware that infrared cameras are installed in the dining room). But that is as far as I’ll go so as not to spoil the fun. Any discussion of ingredients would compromise the point of the restaurant, which is to test your ability to identify foods by smell, taste and texture.
But just reveal one dish, just one dish, to give me some idea of what to expect, a few friends have asked. Let’s just say that the talent of Desmond Lee, formerly of Restaurant Ember, is ultimately what makes NOX work. Say what you will about the concept but the food stands on its own as a good reminder to not judge a book by its cover.
Three-course prix fixe dinner is $78 per person.
NOX Dine in the Dark
269 Beach Road
6298 0708 | www.noxdineinthedark.com