Sunday, 6 April 2014

Dining in the Dark – Mediocrity amplified

50, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Bukit Bintang, 50200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We went to Dining in the Dark recently for a very belated Valentine’s Day dinner and I must say it was a pretty disappointing experience.

As I understand it, the idea is to deprive you of visual input so your tastebuds are not influenced by what you see. Your sense of taste is sharpened and you experience your food more intensely. If we follow that logic, then this will only be a good experience if the food is great in the first place, right?

Sadly, much as their website boasts about ‘surprise menus’ that take diners on a ‘marvelous gastronomic journey’ the food is no more than mediocre.

And, I'm guessing, they're not too big on food presentation either.
What they did deliver on – in spades – was the ‘total darkness’ bit. We couldn’t see anything other than the red dots of light on the security cameras – presumably installed to capture footage of clumsy diners for a ‘funniest videos’ show… or to catch kleptomaniac guests emboldened by the cover of darkness.

We weren't allowed to bring phones or anything else that glows into the dining area. This 'picture' of the security camera is an artist's impression.
And in the pitch-black, not able to see my food, tasting something not-so-great makes my mind conjure up some pretty disturbing stuff. For example, the pasta was cold and the room-temperature, watery sauce made me think I was eating someone else’s leftovers. One of the soups tasted like it came out of a can. One of the dessert items tasted like it was cheap chocolate ice-cream that came out of a cardboard box sold off a pushcart. As the darkness enhanced our sense of taste, the mediocre food only tasted even more intensely mediocre.

That’s not all – our sense of hearing got enhanced too, with equally undesirable results. The couple sitting two tables away sounded like they were having their intimate conversation with us instead of each other.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, eating was hugely uncomfortable too. We had to grope about in the dark to find our plates. Then we are encouraged to use our fingers to push the food onto our spoons to avoid scooping up thin air. If this is a ‘fine dining’ experience like they touted on their website, they could have served bite-sized servings of food on individual spoons. Then we would get the right proportions of everything in every bite. But no – they made us use our hands, clumsily shoveling haphazard spoonfuls into our mouths like we were starving refugees.

Finally, perhaps what irritated me most of all about this whole crappy experience was the preachy talk at the end of the meal reminding us how clumsy we were when we couldn’t see what we were doing. Well DUH!

You may think I’m sounding whiney but you have to consider that they did promise an incredible dining experience filled with fresh sensory delights. I was expecting to eat well. But instead, they focused so much on the darkness part of the experience that the food tasted like an afterthought tacked on at the last second.

It’s a shame, really – an interesting concept that was poorly executed. But, much as I dislike it, I guess there will still be people who are interested to go dine in the dark for the experience, so I won’t go into any more detail about the food to avoid spoiling the mystery. Just remember to lower your expectations of the food and you may have a better experience than I did.

Bite-sized review
Eat in pitch darkness. Interesting concept but executed poorly – focused too much on the darkness gimmick and not enough on the food. The result is mediocre food that tastes more intensely mediocre in the darkness.

Price: RM118++ per person for a 3-course ‘fine dining’ menu that isn’t very fine at all
Hours: 6:00pm to 9:30pm – Tuesdays to Sundays
Reservations: Required – no walk-ins allowed

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