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Think dark dining and you may think of a shadowy room lit by a flickering candle. But what about a dining environment that is really, truly in the dark? Proponents of this new eating trend say it’s a way to dine that puts a new perspective on food. “People dine in the dark [because] it gets them in touch with the actual importance of the often-neglected senses,” says Benjamin Uphues, founder of the Opaque- Dining in the Dark restaurant trio in California. And Dana Salisbury, creator and director of Dark Dining Projects in New York, says, “At a Dark Dining Projects event, other senses take over. After an initial moment of hesitation, you become aware of a million things you’ve never really noticed.”

The concept of eating in the dark first took hold in Zurich during the late 1990s with blind clergyman Jorge Spielmann, who sometimes blindfolded sighted guests who were dining at his home as a way to give them insight into what it was like to be sight impaired. In 1999, Spielmann, along with three other blind co-founders , decided to open a restaurant, called the Blind Cow. What seemed to be a novelty soon became increasingly popular, and the restaurant was often booked solid. By 2002, similar restaurants began appearing across Europe. The concept has since spread to Australia, Asia and, yes, North America.

Some dark-dining events have the diners blindfolded; others use a completely darkened room in which waiters recite the menu. (But don’t worry, the chefs don’t cook in the dark!) Let’s be real, though: Isn’t it messy? Salisbury doesn’t think so. “People worry they won’t know how to eat without seeing, but they shouldn’t,” she says. “We all know where our mouths are and have held utensils in our hands without thinking for years.”

Keep an eye out (no pun intended) for dark dinners such as these:

Dark Dining Projects; New York
Dark Dining Projects’ sensory feasts, held at the French- American Camaje bistro, double as participatory art events, often featuring performances by vocalists, jazz guitarists and other virtuosos. The four-course meal includes pairings with fine wines. www.darkdiningprojects.com

Opaque-Dining in the Dark; San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco
This journey into darkness is also a journey for the palate. Diners choose from their menus in a lighted lounge area; the dining room, however, is completely dark, and the servers are blind. Each restaurant has its own unique selection of three-course prix fixe meals ; a favorite at the San Francisco location is grilled sterling salmon over coconut risotto with green onions, sugar snap peas, sautéed wild mushrooms and curry-mint sauce. www.darkdining.com

O.Noir; Montreal and Toronto
Like those of their Swiss predecessor, O.Noir’s dining rooms are completely dark — nary a cell phone screen nor a glowing watch face intrudes. Sight-impaired waitstaff guide diners to their seats, where guests enjoy dishes such as marinated shrimp with herbs and with dried-tomato risotto. The dark chocolate mousse with raspberry, always delightful, takes on a special sensuousness in the pitch-black room. www.onoir.com