Dine in the Dark with ONoir
Ever wondered how it would feel to dine as a blind? ONoir shows how beautiful this experience can be.
Each one of us is looking for a short escape from the mundane rat race we call life. But while we often escape from routine, we rarely manage to escape from thoughts our senses bring to us. Hidden on the streets of Toronto on Church street, a short walk from Bloor station, is an underground restaurant that can easily be missed. ONoir is a unique place that takes the dine-in-the-dark experience a notch higher. Not only are you served in a pitch dark setup, your servers are blind as well! There is just one simple but amazing rule to this place – No Cell Phone Allowed! It’s designed to make you focus on the beautiful moment at hand.
With reservation in place, once we have arrived at the restaurant, we were seated in a dimly lit cellar-like set up and asked to choose from their selectively tempting menu that includes a surprise veg/non-veg starter, a surprise veg/non-veg main and a surprise dessert. Should you feel a little adventurous I recommend you go for those just like I did. Once our order had been placed, our host asked me to put my left hand on her left shoulder and walked me past a door. My partner had his hand on my shoulder. As it slammed shut, the last ray of light disappeared. I heard another door creak open in the dark and followed the hostess’ shoulder into the dining area filled with nothing but sounds of chatter from other tables. Our hostess for the evening, Tracy, was a sweet lady with a vibe that oozed of kindness. In the short walk to our table, we were suddenly very aware of every trickle of sound around.
The sense of touch came next. As Tracy seated us at our table, guiding us through the cutlery that lay before us, we gently ran our fingers around the table to map the glass, the spoons, the plate, the cup of butter placed on it and even the empty chair beside. It felt like playing treasure hunt in the dark.
It was a patient wait. In the slow seconds that passed, we learn to listen. To hear only excited voices and giggles fill the air from neighbouring tables, devoid of any negativity, was a sobering reality check. It helped me calm down to the experience of a world without sight. What followed was the heightening of all my other senses, laid evident not so much in the aroma of that starter we had ordered, but in the first bite. Unable to see what I was eating, all my attention was drawn to the texture and taste of food on my tongue. I chewed this slight rough and creamy dish slowly, never more aware of pleasures to be found in the art of eating. I could taste each flavour and ingredient in this dish! Our surprise main was a tangy Asian cuisine, and was followed by huge dollop of joy: soft, fresh and creamy. As I approached the end of each plate, I couldn’t help but use my fingers curiously to make sure that I hadn’t left anything.
I apologise for not being able to mention the names of these surprise dishes, but I must honor the request of my host to maintain the curiosity and suspense behind their secret menu. This experience will cost you approx. 100 CAD for two people with no alcohol but I assure you it is worth every bite. With no digital distractions, we did not just talk but truly focused on our conversations. For that hour, humility had struck deep, making me appreciate the smaller things - from the taste of a basil leaf to the way my skin felt against everything I touched.
Occasionally we need such places, to overcome our fascination with the superficiality of looks - from what others may be thinking to what our hair looks like. At ONoir, we start to sense hearts over all. When we walked out of this restaurant back to a lit-up bustling megacity street and could once again see the world, we were thankful for all that we have been bestowed upon by god. Thank you, dear ONoir team, for creating this momentary sweet escape to experience the humbleness of life.