Dinner in the Dark: a feast for senses

For most people their sight is the sense most often used when eating dinner. But what happens if one can’t see the food?

Diners with a healthy sense of adventure can dive into darkness for a dinner in the dark at “aus:sicht Dunkelrestaurant,” where they will taste, touch and smell their food without seeing it — or knowing in advance what they are eating.

 Events are held at “Rosenau Lokalität & Bühne” in Stuttgart and at “Ristorante Reichsstadt” in Esslingen.

The dining rooms are pitch-black, and visitors typically will feel as though they are blindfolded — there’s no way to adjust to the darkness, according to Barbara Antonin, spokeswoman and chairwoman of the “aus:sicht e.V. Dunkelrestaurant,”  a association that aims to integrate blind and visually-impaired people into society.

 “Most visitors are used to seeing their food and therefore know what’s being served on their plate,” Antonin said. “If people can’t see what they’re eating, it makes for a different and more intense perception.”

For the aus:sicht association, dinner in the dark is more than a trendy and entertaining outing.

The organization’s goal is to generate conversation between blind and sighted people, according to Antonin. Blind and visually-impaired staff members accompany diners throughout the evening by welcoming them to the restaurant, guiding them to their tables, and serving food and beverages.

“The roles are being switched since visitors have to rely on a blind person and not the other way around,” Antonin said. “This gives our visitors the chance to experience what everyday life is like for the visually impaired. It also motivates our staff because they can help, and their support is appreciated.”

Diners also “become more sensitized and learn to use their other senses: hearing, taste, touch and smell,” Antonin said.

Lena Gschwind of Esslingen, who recently attended a dinner in the dark, can relate.

“The event was an extraordinary experience.  In the beginning, it was strange if not scary to only ‘see’ darkness,” Gschwind said. “I started to focus on listening to my friends’ voices for orientation. I was also surprised that I was unable to identify most of the food I was eating,” she added.

During the meal, waiters will ask the diners to describe the flavors and textures they are eating. For many, identifying the food becomes a game. After dessert and coffee, diners can see how successful they were at guessing, because the menu will be posted at the restaurant entrance.

At Rosenau, visitors can indulge in a three-course menu consisting of hearty regional meals.

“Our chef is very creative with the menu choices. He always adds spices or combines food in ways that people probably wouldn’t prepare at home,” Antonin said.

The Ristorante Reichsstadt offers a Mediterranean-inspired four-course menu.

Both restaurants also boast entertainment programs featuring spoken theater, music and rap performances mainly in German.

Before an event begins, diners at both locations receive €15 in €.50 and €2 coins to pay for alcoholic beverages and coffee. They must activate their sense of touch in order to identify the differences in shape and size of the coins as they pay.

“The event made me realize how much I normally focus on my sight,” Gschwind said. “Personally, the dinner was an adventurous and interesting outing. It was fascinating and challenging at the same time to concentrate on hearing, tasting, touching and smelling things.”

How to dine in the dark

Reservations for the restaurants go fast, and dinner must be paid in advance. Each diner will pay an additional €15 for alcoholic beverages and coffee. Patrons will receive this money back the night of the event in order to pay for drinks.

Reservations can be made Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling civ. 0711-60148581 or online at www.aus-sicht.de/dunkelrestaurant-stuttgart/termine-und-reservierung.html.

Visitors are reminded not to bring bulky handbags, cell phones, flashing watches or jewelry. English speaking personnel will be on site. Doors open at 6:10 p.m., and the event starts at 7 p.m.

Rosenau Lokalität & Bühne is located at Rotebühlstrasse 109b, 70178 Stuttgart. The three-course meal costs €64 and includes water and sodas. Seats are still available for March 18, 19 and 20; April 16, 17 and 18; May 22, 23 and 24.

Ristorante Reichsstadt is located at Rathausplatz 5, 73728 Esslingen. The four-course “Gourmand Mediterrane” meal costs €75 and includes water and sodas. Seats are available for Feb. 28.

For more information, visit www.aus-sicht.de.