Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dining In The Dark Kuala Lumpur : An Experience

Let me warn you that today's posting will be so devoid of photos that all you could possibly get are words. This will be challenging as a food/restaurant review without any source of lights (and i meant total darkness) and no food photos, will be a tough blog entry to do.
Like seriously pitch dark
I received an invitation to savour this experience about two weeks ago. What makes this a more unique experience was that I will be double-dating my parents. Yes. Me, my wife, my mum and my dad. I don't believe this has ever happened (and without the kids aka grand kids). According to my dad, Dining in the Dark is not a new concept having seen a following in places like Bangkok and Japan. It is however, something very daring by a Malaysian eateries in a larger establishment.
Achluophobia
The fear of Darkness. That was what it is. I know wifey is borderline in this case and she was daring to agree to this outing. She is known to leave me behind when we runs through tunnel and her biggest fear come SAC2013 is running in the complete darkness. The trip down town, which rarely happen and the opportunity to be at Changkat (the last she went there was almost 4 years ago) was too much to let go. My mum too, has never been downtown since almost forever. Yes, KL has changed a lot even for the KLites. It can be daunting. It's forever changing.
Constantly Changing Skyline. Only things certain is the jam, even on weekend
The trip down to KL via the smaller road was educational to a large extend. Most of the double storey or triple storey townhouse has turned into  home for the immigrants. No longer you see locals staying - saved for one or two houses we saw along Jalan Berangan before turning off to Jalan Nagasari. Best parking area to visit the eateries along Changkat is at Radius International Hotel. Warning though if you drive a truck or one of those larger that usual SUV, there are sections at the parking that will only allow a maximum clearing of 5-feet 5-inches by 7-feet wide. Exiting the Hotel lobby at M1, you just need to cross the road to Werner's At Changkat. Dining In The Dark is situated right on top of Werner's and Whisky Bar.
The entrance is situated between Werner's and Whisky Bar.
In The Family
Dining In The Dark is part of the Werner's group of restaurant. I am sure many of you are not stranger to El Cerdo & El Cerdito, The Bier Bar, The Whisky Bar and Werner's at Changkat. Most of you would know the food would be good coming from the this group. This is important as Dining In The Dark concept will NOT allow you to KNOW and SEE the food you will be eating. So at the very least, you know the food that will be served, will be good, if not better. 
The last place you will see "lights"
The Adventure Starts
The family arrived and was greeted by Raine. She sat us down and offered us some welcome drinks. She took the time to explain to us the mechanics of the dining which includes telling us that "no camera, phones, watches or anything that will emit lights will be allowed". Here are some of the  information I remembered, and that will help you to "prepare for the experience".
1. It will be pitch dark. You will not be able to see your own nose or your hands even if you put it inches from your eyes.
2. ALL staffs behind the door (of the dining area) are visually impaired or completely blind. They are the Darkness Experts.
3. You will be served a multi-course meal : appetisers, mains and desserts. The whole experience will be RM88++ per person. Your name will be taken with the preferences (my dad is vegetarian), drinks and such taken note off.
Yes, the welcome drink is included, so is coffee or tea at the end of the dining
4. There will not be any BEEF or PORK served so that all races and religion can enjoy this experience, as long as they do not mind alcoholic beverages being served in the same establishment. In other words, it's not Halal.
5. If you are allergic to any food, or a vegetarian, do let them know. Your food will then be customised accordingly. Remember, you will be eating in total darkness. Trust is important.
6. The food that will be served : A mystery. But it changes once every few weeks. 
7. You can order a drink with your meal. The cost is additional to the RM88++. You can request for plain water. It's free.
The Red wine was good. :)
8. Lockers will be available outside to safe keep your belongings. Now, you are ready to go into the Dark Side. Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.
What? No phone to Instagram?
We were lead by Raine to meet up with Thong, the diner's waiter. He is visually impaired. We were asked to place our hands on each other's shoulder, with Thong leading the way. As we enter the door, lights slowly leave us behind. Going through a dark curtain and suddenly everything went pitch dark. Saved for the iR cameras installed on the ceiling, there is NO lights. So, if you really do need some lights, just look at the camera to know that you aren't alone. Now that you know there are cameras, remember not to try anything funny, like streaking while eating, groping, having your date as desserts etc etc. 
Thong put us all at the designated seats. This way, he will always remember where we are seating. We were then "shown" where the cutleries were on the table. The water glass on the top right, below it is the fork and spoon (no knife for obvious safety reasons), On your 12 o clock is the dessert spoon and fork, and on top of that is a napkin. Simple set up and you can imagine your space as you run your fingers around the table. Soon after, the drinks we ordered arrived with Thong announcing it. We just need to remember to reply to him or the waiter/waitress so they know where to find you. The drinks will be placed next to your water cup. Thong speaks good English and has been trained appropriately in the art of fine dining. Though visually impaired, just remember that you are in "his world". A world without sight. It makes you humble and appreciate how we with sight-ability sometimes failed to appreciate even this gift.
Wifey were fearful of the dark and it showed with her holding onto my hands tightly for the first 5-minutes. Assuring that all will be OK she told me that if she can survive this pitch darkness, Sabah Adventure Challenge should not be an issue if needed to run in the dark. She slowly warmed up to this whole idea of total darkness and once the food was served, we were slowly exploring with our senses.
Sense of Smell was heighten as the warm food were placed in front of us.
Sense of Taste became more sensitive as we became more aware of what we are putting into our mouth, the texture, the taste, the warmness or the coldness.
Sense of Touch were used to feel around the plate, and for me, IN the plate to "visualise" the placement of the food presentation.
Sense of Hearing became more acute, as we listen to each other and started to have conversations - instead of Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagraming or just Whatapps-ing.
We learnt to rely of the other senses to "See". Half way through, Nicole, the Restaurant Manageress stopped by and greeted us. She spoke fluently in English, Bahasa and most Chinese dialects. Her sweet voice and friendly charms keep you at ease and if you were lucky enough during your dine-in, she might just play the Piano for you, in the dark! By the way, Nicole is also visually impaired. How she manages all these? Inspiring.
That night, we had exactly what the menu stated - 3 appetisers, 3 main courses and (not 4, but) 5 desserts. All portioned to satisfy an average eater. Just remember that this is not a Buffet where you stuff yourself, neither is this fine dining that has plates bigger than the food served. The plate that were used for both appetisers and main were about 30cm by 15cm, sectioned into three recessed part, and in each holds the mysterious meal. We were suggested to eat it "Chinese style" aka from right to left (as in like reading a Chinese book from right to left). That way, you will have a chance to appreciate what you take a portion-at-a-time.
As there are no rules to eat with the cutleries, I find eating with my fingers and occasionally using the spoon, instead of the fork, to be more enjoyable. Some of the food are very very obvious to what they are (Spoiler : like baby tomato with it's acidic taste) - but most of it, it was a guessing game. 
My mum is a very picky eater, she is not a fan of western dining - preferring her salad cooked rather than raw. So it was indeed "eye-opening to see" her eating what was served. Truly, if you can't see what you eat, you will just ignore and eat it (as long as it's not alive). The funniest moment was when wifey reaches out to my mother's plate and realised that my mum has only eaten ONE portion with the other two portions still perfectly intact (see how powerful the sense of touch is?) Not helping that her (my mum) insistent not to use her fingers has actually pushed off the food onto the table. 
By the way, the dessert (spoiler again) was awesome. It was sinful for me and wifey said she licked off the plate. 
Soon after our meal was over, we announced to Thong and we were led out by Nicole in the same manner that we were led in by Thong. We said our very appreciative thanks to Nicole and her team and were sat down again by Raine where we were asked if we knew what we ate...we then had the menu of what we ate revealed to us. And I am not going to spoil if for you. 
She Survived!
We were then told to head to Ten @ Changkat (Or Werner's @ Changkat) for our coffee or tea to complete the meal. With the eyes slowly getting accustomed to the bright lights, my parents were sitting down in what could be my first time with them having coffee al-freso style.
Not everyday you get to see them do this
Some Tips and Pointers for Dining In The Dark KL
1. Speak softly. Our voice tend to amplify a few folds simply because we lost the sense of space to the person next to us and we felt there is a need to speak louder.
2. Try not to reveal what you are eating too loudly. Let the other around you make their guesswork. It's ok to share within the same table of same diners, but don't assume the other diners on the other table would want to know what will be served before they get their food.
3. Go with your eyes wide open. That way, you will be able to enjoy and suck in the whole experience. No, you won't bite off your own fingers and no, they would not serve anything that they will not eat themselves.
4. Remember this : None is as blind as those that do not want to see. ;-) 

Thank you Nicole and team for the wonderful unforgettable experience. I know most, if not all of you will not be able to read this unless someone reads them, but i hope the management sees this and let you all know about the good job your team are doing. Awesome.

Reservations/booking/group booking can be done here:
Dining in the Dark Kuala Lumpur (on top of Werners’ or now it is Ten @ Changkat)
44A & 46A Changkat Bukit Bintang
Tel: +603 2110 0431
Reservation: +6012 251 5797 / 03-2110-0431
Email: info@dininginthedarkkl.com
Opening hours: 6.30pm – 10.30pm (Tuesday – Sunday) These good people rest on Monday
Like their Facebook Page Here and follow them on twitter here
My friend Rebecca Saw has posted a superb review on her blog too. You might want to go and read it there.

6 comments:

  1. wow... what an experience. and kudos to aileen for braving the challenge. and your sporting parents too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Doesn't happen everyday Farah. :) And yes, we survived! :D

      Delete
  2. Wow, that's awesome. Would love to try it one day! Nice blog man!

    -> ❤ TechKini.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. WoW... RM88++ per person!!!
    It's not really an affordable experience for everyone...
    I mean, it is a 'should try' thing... When I gather enough
    resources and people who is willing to pay for that amount...
    *Actually, I'm going tonite... LoL!!!

    ReplyDelete

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