Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dans le Noir - An Unhappy Belly Review

An unhappy belly indeed.

It's been 5 days, and I'm still complaining about the place.

Dans le noir has an incredibly good concept - eating in the dark so you can heighten your other senses when appreciating your food.  Eating without sight, if done right, should incorporate different textures, temperatures and flavors.  Contrast is the key.  You're relying solely on your nose and taste buds.  No. If done right you should be able to hear the crunch and the crackling and the pop.  The concept has such great potentials. Yet this place failed miserably.

Dans le Noir can be found in Barcelona, New York, Paris, St.Petersburgh, and London.

I went to the NY one. 

For $90 per person for a 3 course meal, I was expecting fine dining.  Their website sure boasts about their fine dining.  French chefs, French managers, French cuisine - or so they say.  The food was beyond disappointing.  But before I get to that, let me first take you through the evening.

Before entering into the dark, we were in the lobby area where it was fully lit, and people could chat and order drinks from the bar.  We had to first sign a waiver - essentially saying that they're not responsible if we die in there.  Smaller groups of people were put together as it was usually 10 people per table, fortunately we were a big enough table to be on our own.  So we had a lovely waitress, Maria, take us into the dark and she was very helpful throughout the evening.  It was pitch black, not a trace of light (yes, I know, no sh*t).  It was a bit frightening but I have to say that it was an incredible social experience, but that was due to the people I was with.  

The restaurant was too loud, there was unnecessary music in the background and we all had to yell over each other.  But nonetheless, the social experience was still good.

Now, the food. It was not even mediocre.  Everything was cold. The meat was tough and chewy.  The batter around my fried shrimp was soggy.  The crab cake was 80% potatoes.  The risotto was loose and bland.  The whatever-mash was bland.   The chocolate mousse was just bad whipped cream.  It was all horribly bland and frustrating.  At the end when we were taken out of the darkness and back into the lobby, we were told what we ate.  Lies and lies.  The menu sounded beautiful - ostrich? Really?  It was all just tough meat.  And it was all made worse by the two French managers who kept telling us how amazing the place was even after our dining experience.  Not only that, they gave us a guilt trip on having sight.    They made it sound like it was more as an experience to be blind, rather than an actually culinary experience.  And you know what we got at the end?  "Maria (the visually-impaired waitress) would love to hear your reviews.  So why don't you go on tripadvisor and give her a review. Not for me, for Maria.  It'll make her happy.  Not for me, for Maria.  It'll make her feel appreciated.  These waiters need that.  So write a review.  Not for me, for Maria"  (You have to imagine this said in an annoying French accent.  It's even worse now, isn't it?)

Here's your review -  Maria, you were excellent in every way.  But the restaurant's a rip-off.


Think what you can get with $90 in a fine dining restaurant.  This place didn't even have to spend any money on decors.  We were eating in a slaughter house with dilapidated walls and cheap wooden tables for all we know.  They don't even have to pay a lot for insurance due to the waver we had to sign.  The food probably didn't even pass basic health and safety requirements.  My sister found hair in her food. Hair.  It was curly and thick, so we all know what kind of hair it probably was. 

All this for $90 per person?  They have two seatings per evening, each with at least 30 people.  60 people per night, 7 nights a week.

60 x 7 x 90 = $37800

Ok, let's assume that they don't have that many people every evening (even though I'm pretty sure there were more than 30 people the evening I was there).  So let's say 60 people for 5 nights a week.

60 x 5 x 90 = $27000

That's the revenue per week. 
Like I said before, I usually don't give bad restaurant reviews.  If I have a bad experience, I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it is a one-time thing.  So I don't like giving reviews if they're bad.  But in this case, it's been 5 days and I'm still angry. 

And I'm not the only one.

Eater NY calls it a shitshow

I know I'm being harsh.  You know what, it's a good social experience.  Go with a group of friends and you can joke around and complain with the entire evening. Do not go there on a date, as I saw some poor couples did.  Do not go if you want to eat well.  Go for a social experience if you must.


  1. It's really refreshing to read an honest review like this. Don't feel bad-- you were as logical as could be!

  2. Or it could be the fact that this restaurant demonstrates how our tastes could be biased by sight, that if we see brightly colored and visually enticing food, it ends up tasting better despite mediocrity.



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