Last night, after way too many years of being repressed, I finally broke free of the social stigma and ate with my hands. It was sloppy, slurpy, and a whole bunch of other adjectives that start with the letter ‘s’.

There is a fairly new restaurant on St-Catherine and Guy that’s quite the sensation back in europe, where the idea first took hold. No, I’m not talking about the idea of eating with your bare hands. That distinguished form of eating sadly went the way of the dodo a little while back, ever since dental hygiene became more prevelent and teeth started being sharper and more painful on wayward fingers in your mouth. What I AM talking about is a place where the gimmick is.. eating in the dark! Pitch black, to be precise. You know that type of dark that if you open your eyes real wide and just stare, you end up seeing little flashes of light in your vision because you’re trying to make out something, anything? Yeah, that type of dark.

You start out in the anteroom near a bar and some lockers for your things, where you can look at the menu and order your wine for your meal. As there are actual menu items listed, you can choose any one of those, but for the more adventurous there is an enticing “surprise” option where you don’t know what you’re about to eat! Naturally, the idea of knowing beforehand what I was going to be eating was just another piece of information that we needed to deprive ourselves with, for the simple fact that if you’re going for the experience, there’s no point in helping yourself cheat.

So we both ordered and after a few minutes our waiter came out and introduced himself. We were to hold his left shoulder and so on, like a train so that he could guide us to our table. I don’t think I was ready for how really dark the place actually was. We are so innundated by light sources, pretty much everywhere and anywhere we go, that to be in a place that actually is deliberately and actively stopping light from entering is a very rare event and is something wholly unfamiliar to most people. The entranceway to the eating area is staggered with the anteroom, with heavy black curtains, so no light came in when we entered. As we walked, our waiter kept calling out “Attention” to make sure that the other waiters knew he was coming with customers in tow. His voice was actually a little shocking – after losing your sense of sight when entering the room, your ears seem to automatically enter super-mode, and a break in the intial silence felt deafening.

After a little bit more choo-choo-choo-ing with our waiter, we arrived at our table and managed to sit down. I tried to get a feel of our table and the general sitting arrangement, and as far as I could tell we were sitting on a half-circle table that seemed to be attached to others like it in a row, with another half-circle row facing us. Of course, it was pitch freaking black and anything that I tried to imagine in my head could very easily have been very, very different from reality. I then turned to my lovely date of the evening (well, turned to where I assumed she was…) and we started having a conversation completely in the dark. And its different. Because normally you have all these facial cues to know the reaction of the person you’re talking to from what you just said, here, there’s really nothing but to listen to what the other person has to say, and take your cues from that. And it therefore becomes a much more interesting conversation, simply because you’re listening so intently to the other person. It also doesn’t hurt that the whole self-concious thing is competely thrown out the window, because no one else can see you either. So you’re in a public setting, but you have the most privacy that you can hope to get. For example, another couple was sat down just in front of us, and really, they were probably no more than 2 or 3 feet away. But we couldn’t see them, and vice versa. So the personal space that is usually required for people dining is just not needed, and you just carry on as if they weren’t there. It was quite surreal.

And then there was the food. The appetizer came, and after fumbling around to find our forks we attempted to jab whatever it was on our plate. I tasted tomatoes, lots of tomatoes, some lettuce and some sort of cheese… and it was good! The hardest part was using the fork to actually poke something that was left so you could eat it. Which is why we did away with them for the main course..

The main course was really really good – but that may just be my taste buds overcompensating for the lack of a visual experience. It turned out to be filet mignon and mashed potatoes with some veggies, and the meat was already cut up into small pieces for us. It was covered in a delicious sauce that tasted even better coming off of my fingers than I could have imagined. Also, grabbing a glop of mashed potatoes in your fingers is a delicious feeling that allows you to understand what playing with your food is really all about.

Finally, dessert was a smooth chocolate ice cream, a la fingers. All I can say is that I’m glad their napkins are thick.

An awesome experience, an awesome evening, great food, great idea. I would go back!

P.S. I’m having a major spam problem right now, so comments are currently being moderated before showing up! Sorry!