Tourist Tip #224 / BlackOut in Jaffa: Dining in the Dark

BlackOut restaurant offers visitors the experience of eating in complete darkness, awakening senses you may not have realized you had.

For an eye-opening dining experience, so to speak, then BlackOut restaurant, nestled within the repurposed warehouse that is home to the Nalaga'at (Please Touch) Center, might be for you.

Located at the Jaffa Port, BlackOut serves meals in total darkness, rendering visitors blind for the duration of their stay.

The purpose is to offer diners a temporary perspective on what it's like to live without sight.

Guests order their main course in the familiar glow of electric lighting – three vegetarian and three fish entrees are offered - before entering the darkened chamber. If you're feeling particularly brave you also have the option to order a "mystery" meal. You can rest assured there won't be any practical jokes in which you're served a plate of gruel or something typically associated with the phrase "mystery meat".

After ordering, your party is led by your (actually) blind or visually-impaired waiter into the pitch-black dining area to your seats, through aisles between tables that you can't see, but might bump into. Imagine a moonless midnight in a forest.

Once seated, you're left to your own devices to relearn how to pour a glass of water and divide bread.

You might notice how loud people at other tables seem to be. Is your sense of hearing already heightened, or is everyone compensating for the lack of perceived distance between themselves and others? Either way, you get used to it.

When only the waiters remain on their feet you begin to sense their presence in an entirely new way. It’s a little ghostly. You can hear their footsteps, but without vision are you also sensing them somehow?

Your food arrives. Your waiter will gently tap you on the back and set a plate in front of you. Feel free to scope out the plate with your hands – no one is watching – and begin digging in, taking note of the smells and textures in a new light. You can also order a drink, maybe a beer or whiskey, to enjoy with your invisible meal.

Don't expect to finish too quickly as you might lose track of where everything is on your plate, but that's part of the fun. If you ordered fish, take note of the squishy sound it makes as you cut into it.

After your meal is cleared away comes the final course. Dessert is a surprise. You have no choices. The plate set before you has three samples, each different in texture and taste, perhaps a puff pastry next to a schnozberry brulee. Who knows?

Finally your waiter, with whom you’re on a first-name basis now, guides you back out the way you came. You say goodbye and return to the light you’re used to and are newly grateful for.

BlackOut (http://www.nalagaat.org.il/blackout.php) is a kosher-dairy restaurant open only on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. There are two seatings each night, at 6:30 and 9. Reservations are required.

Tel: 03-633-0808.

Liron Almog