You are cordially invited to a unique dining experience in the DARK. In the age of if you didn’t capture a picture of it , it didn’t exist , this salle à manger offers the type of dining experience worth writing about . Close your eyes and rely on the senses to journey into a fly eats moment worth imagining .
I was introduced to O.Noire by one of my besties. Located in Montreal , she was visiting her native city and shared with me her experience of a restaurant in pitch black! Immediately I was intrigued but banked the convo in the back of my mind. When I told her I was finally going to visit Montreal, she promptly reminded me of the dining experience she had enjoyed. Excited , I quickly made reservations for two even though I had no idea if I would even have company. Thankfully my wanderlust sister was able to join me so we could dive into this bizarre place together .
Fly Things To Know
1 . O Noire first opened in Montreal in 2006. The servers are all visually impaired and the restaurant provides a working environment which highlights their skills instead of focusing on any limits. I absolutely loved that because naturally when around anyone with any form of disability we tend to project on them our own thoughts of what their limitations are or what they are capable of without considering their gifts first. I know I’m guilty of that at times! Although you will dine in the dark , the chef does not cook in the dark (you know you were wondering ).
2. As interesting as it would be, the entire restaurant isn’t in the dark . When entering there is an intimately lit area that could very well resemble a quaint cafe with a full bar and tables, if you choose to not embark on the dining adventure . But come on ,if you’re going to show up you might as well go all out . Here is where you will place your food and drink order prior to entering the dark room as well as place your phone or any device that may illuminate in a private locker.
3. You can indulge in a surprise menu ! To make your experience even more memorable you can opt to have your appetizer , entree, dessert and even your cocktail a surprise . The nice thing about it is that you are not limited to a préfixe menu and you can make the chef aware of any dietary restrictions, allergies or preference beforehand. For my Top Chef fans , it feels like you’re Padma challenging the chef to a sudden death challenge of creating an impromtu dish. I personally ordered a surprise cocktail , appetizer and dessert . I chose my entree from the menu . Pricing is fairly reasonable and they offer an option of a two course meal for $36 and a 3 course meal for $42.
4. The old saying rings true here . Do not ever judge a book by its cover . Our wonderful waitress escorted my cousin and I towards the dining area with perfect precision. Prior to entering she explained we would walk in a line holding on to each other shoulders and she would do the rest . Of course it was nerve wrecking initially . It felt in all accounts like stepping into the unknown but at the same time I felt exhilarated . She spoke directions and made us aware of the door that would be to the right or the chair will be at your left . Once were seated the directions became more detailed like explaining where our utensils are and even the butter and bread placed in the center of the table . She delivered each course and drink without any issues. It was beyond impressive .
5. Walking into the dark room , I realized the room is not only pitch black but it’s sound proof. The waiting area doesn’t give away an inkling that there’s a room filled with loud patrons at all . For a minute I thought maybe it would be a max of two or three tables but from the sound, it was definitely a full house. I think for many, darkness is synonymous with silence or at the very least quietness but O.Noire did not lack in the sound department. I've realized the amplified sounds may not have normally bothered me but being unable to see, I was more keen to every vibration.
I am the queen of taking pictures of my food. More often than not , I ignite my taste buds by satisfying the visual satisfaction for me to enjoy my entire experience . I appreciate a well plated meal and I do believe the sight of luscious ingredients combined with care and thought sets the tone before the first bite. All of that to say , I don’t know what was more challenging ,actually not seeing it or being unable to take the picture !
As I stated previously I chose some surprise options and oddly enough , I never asked at the end exactly what I was eating . So here’s as close of a description of each as I can provide.
Surprise Cocktail - I asked for something on the sweet/sour side and thankfully I received a yummy drink of flavors which burst of grapefruit , tequila , lime , sugar and I'm going to guess a splash of juice....fruit ...maybe.
Surprise Appetizer - I informed the chef that I am pescatarian so i figured most of my meals would have some sort of seafood. The app was what tasted like a seared tuna on top of an arugula salad with crunchy plantain strips on the side . The vinaigrette was light and a bit of citrus but I couldn’t put a finger on exactly all the underlying flavors . The tuna was cooked well and I carefully mixed the salad ingredients which provided a truly divine bite .
Entree- I opted in not having a surprise entree because well I was hungry and I figured if all the surprises were trash at least I knew my entree would be as close to good as possible . So I ordered shrimp with pineapple fried rice and it was amazing.
Dessert - so this part was a little tricky. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what I was eating. I know for sure it was some sort of spongy cake . It wasn’t as soft as cake for tres lèche but it also wasn’t tough. That was the bottom layer. The second layer tasted of a lemon/lime custard, almost like a key lime pie and last on top fresh berries.My guess would have been raspberries. It wasn't bad but it wasn’t great and I think not being able to see what it was played a major role . I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and truthfully it could still be all wrong .
Why is O Noire So Fly ?
My cousin brought up mid dinner , “do you feel like eating in the dark makes you more sensitive ?”. Granted we were having a pretty deep conversation but I have to say the darkness allowed for vulnerability to have a seat at our table as well . Our eyes were closed because we realized it was easier to maneuver that way and it felt like a wave of emotions as we dined . The amount of intimacy I felt sitting in this dark room was abundant. Not in a sexual tone but more of a certain connection with everything and everyone. We use our sight to read people , to judge people , places and things. We make assumptions of an environment based on the visual attributes which can very well be fine but O Noire provided something else. Almost like a provocative social experiment on how we can handle removing something as natural as sight , for most , and seeing how we can enjoy a moment without it. The restaurant becomes more than just a dining experience . It is THE dining experience to embark on at least once. Take a minute to close your eyes and really enjoy the company surrounding you .Take a moment to really relish in each bite instead of scrolling on Instagram in between each rushed morsel. Savor and indulge in using the senses of sound and taste to make you aware of each crunch of a freshly crisp salad or the smoothness from a creme in your dessert. O Noire assists in the realization that the involvement in a place like this is less about actual visualization and more the visuals your mind can create through the sense of taste and the reality of how limiting this sense can provide as delightful of an experience as you would have with it. Bottom line is I really enjoyed this #flyeats moment and I would not only go again but I would encourage you to go too! Take on this feasting escapade and tell them Carmey sent you!