I’d read about the ‘dine in the dark‘ experience before and thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought until we arrived at our hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Dine in the Dark (Phnom Penh) is located on street 19, next to the Happy House Zone Hostel which we happened to be staying in (not the greatest of hostels but ok if you’re looking for somewhere central for cheap). After a day of exploring the city, we decided to give Dine in the Dark a try, not really knowing what to expect.
When we arrived we were given a menu choice of Khmer (traditional Cambodian), Vegetarian, International or the Chef’s Monthly selection. We opted for the chef’s selection and after locking our phones away, we were introduced to Freddo our blind waiter. The restaurant helps employ those who are blind or partially sighted and would therefore find it harder to find a job.
Freddo explained what was about to happen and then led us up stairs and into the dark. Before entering the restaurant, I was convinced I’d be able to see something; an outline or a shadow, but we were in absolute darkness. Freddo gently rested our hands on our chairs and we felt our way to sit down at our table.
Softly and in perfect English, Freddo explained where each item on the table was placed and poured our wine. We were then left in total darkness, feeling for our wine glasses and trying to cheers without being able to see a thing.
It’s amazing how heighten your hearing gets when you are relying on that to workout where everyone and everything is. We could hear each footstep and each movement of the waiters and the sound of the other diners being led to their tables.
After a while our first surprise course arrived. Freddo placed the dishes in front of us and we were again left in the darkness to feel where our food was. After locating the dish and then cutlery, we blindly took a mouthful of food. It was delicious. I’m not sure if it was the darkness but the flavours seemed so much stronger and vivid that normal. With help from feeling around the bowl with our fingers, we soon finished the first course, eagerly discussing what it was we thought we’d just eaten.
The second course was slightly harder to manage, with it being larger and hotter. This course, I admit, I used my hands to guide me a lot more. Again, the food was delicious and we came to our own conclusions as to what it was.
Dessert came and the struggle to use cutlery alone continued. Though only a small insight into the lives of the blind or visually impaired, it did bring home some of the day to day struggles they face. We all take for granted sitting down and eating a meal but it is not as simple a task, when you can not see what you are doing.
As we finished up I was reveling in what a unique experience we had just had. It was not only a gorgeous meal but a thought provoking evening.
As Freddo led us downstairs and we said our goodbyes, we were shown pictures of the three courses we had just devoured. We only guessed about fifty percentage of what we had eaten correctly (I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you the menu) and were really surprised how much our taste is influenced by appearance.
Certainly not a night to forget and one I’d strongly recommend.
A three course meal at Phnom Penh Dine in the Dark costs $18 (as of December 2016) with a bottle of wine costing about $10. Not the cheapest meal in the city but worth every penny for the unique experience and of course, to support the good causes.
Have you Dined in the Dark? How did you like it?