We're always on the lookout for novel culinary experiences. Travelling full-time as we do we're fortunate to be constantly exposed to different and interesting foods. We've had more than our fair share of interesting dinners but a restaurant called Dining In The Dark KL provided one of the most memorable.
It's centrally located only a few minutes walk from Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The street frontage is unremarkable. The restaurant is up a set of stairs and not exposed to the street.
We climbed the stairs with more than a little apprehension. Finally experiencing something you've been hearing about for a long time often leads to disappointment… Smiling staff greeted us and provided us with a drink while we discussed how the evening would proceed.
There are Dining in the Dark restaurants elsewhere in the world that operate differently. Others operate in a lit room using high-tech blindfolds to completely blind the guests. Not so in KL. In the Kuala Lumpur the room you eat in is completely, utterly dark. How then does your food reach your table? Simple. They have hired blind people as waiters, people accustomed to navigating without sight.
You're lead through a series of thick black curtains that block out the outside world. Once you've formed a small conga line with your waiter at the head. He then navigates you to your table in absolute darkness. When our waiter left with Tanya to get her seated I was left standing alone wondering whether this was a good idea. Once the first course arrived it turned out to be a very good idea indeed.
Three courses are provided. Each course consists of multiple dishes. First is an array appetizers, then a collection of mains and finally a selection of desserts. It's a lot of food. Each individual dish is small but there are plenty of them.
The key to the whole experience is that you have no idea what any of it is. They don't tell you what's on the menu that night. It's up to you to guess and that's surprisingly difficult.
I had expected that once I was deprived of sight that my other senses, including taste, would grow stronger. That didn't seem to be the case. Instead, when tasting some mystery food, it would taste like nothing. You could chew it and feel it's texture but it tasted like nothing at all. Then you'd get a tiny hint of flavour, think “mushroom” and suddenly it would taste undeniably of mushroom.
More interesting was when I would think it was something, say, chicken. Tanya then said “no, it's lamb” and suddenly the taste switched from chicken to lamb. In some cases neither of us was correct and it was something else entirely.
It was an interesting lesson in the role sight and expectations play when we're eating. Once you're without sight and have no pre-conceived ideas about the food its taste becomes bizarrely difficult to pin down. This meal provided us not only with full bellies but also with conversation for the rest of the night. What's real? What isn't? How would I know? Is this why everything tastes like chicken?
Cutlery is provided but I recommend you ignore it and just use your hands. Getting food into your mouth is difficult enough. If you add forks and knives into the mix someone is liable to lose a finger or, ironically, an eye.
Once our meal was complete we returned to a well lit room to discuss the food. We listed down what we thought we had eaten and were then shown photographs of the various dishes. In about 50% we were pretty accurate. The other 50% were often way off.
Our bill for two people was 246 RM. That's around $75 AUD. It included a pre-dinner drink and a cup of tea or coffee in the cafe downstairs after we ate. That is fairly expensive for KL however, compared to similar restaurants elsewhere in the world, it's a real bargain.
Dining in the Dark KL is not a restaurant you're going to visit regularly. It's more of a one off experience. Something for when you want something different and a bit fun. Try it out at least once in your life.
Visit the official Dining in the Dark website for more information.