Sensory deprivation is a technique used to calm and relax you. The theory is that in the soundproof, lightproof tank, buoyancy and temperature are perfectly balanced in a saline solution so that your body feels nothing — not even gravity. Taste is the one sense that they don’t do much to counterbalance: you just don’t eat anything before going in the tank.
A new trend in dining seems to allow focus on taste as the key sense. The intent seems to be to rise above visual presentation of food. As someone who mashes up all sorts of ingredients and tosses it in a bowl, I have never worried too much about presentation.
They call it dining au noir and it is a wacky new way to consume food in a restaurant environment. The place is pitch black, with no cellphones, matches, lighters, cigarettes, or flashlights to ruin the “ambience”; your wait staff are blind — experts who need no light to function flawlessly as food service professionals. The focus is apparently on the conversation and the taste experience.
I personally can’t imagine a more terrifying thing, but that’s because I am still afraid of the dark after all these years. And eating something I can’t see, despite what I said about presentation not mattering… well that’s more unsettling than appetizing. Even more troubling: the only introduction most people have had to this phenomenon was on TV’s CSI, where one of the dinner guests was discovered dead when the lights come back on.
New ways to do things always fascinate me. My daughter tried au noir in Montreal* recently and recommended the experience to my wife and me for our anniversary. My wife, knowing my fears, found the recommendation quite amusing. I am up for a challenge though, and maybe someday I will work up the courage to try dining in the dark.