Jul. 14th, 2008

Dining in the Dark at Opaque

Destination Dining: Opaque: Dining in the Dark has brought the newest culinary sensation to California. Originally a dining concept found only in Europe, Berlin-native Benjamin Uphues opened a Los Angeles location after a visiting friend raved about the experience. Since the Los Angeles opening, Opaque has expanded to San Diego and San Francisco. Recently, Downtown San Diego saw Opaque reopen in a brand new location inside the swanky W Hotel. Uphues's restaurant is extremely well suited for the W. Both establishments simultaneously radiate a posh yet unconventional energy.

Experiencing Opaque
Upon entering Opaque, we were welcomed into a lighted lounge. Shortly after ordering, an assigned server appeared to lead us to our table by way of touch. Working in conjunction with the Blind Institute of America, Uphues employs a legally blind staff. These individuals are well suited for a position with Opaque; moving about without sight is a way of life for them.

When we entered the pitch-black dining room, our server Lynn positioned us with our hands on each other's shoulders in a sort of "conga line." From this point onward a bond of trust began to ensue between us. Our server guided us audibly during the journey through the dining room, while offering suggestions on how to make the most of the experience to come. After settling into our table, we soon became accustomed to the lack of sight. Despite the fact that there is nothing to see, there is everything to hear, smell and feel. Individuals find themselves feeling the tablecloth, running their fingers over designs on the silverware and locating bread plates. When drinks arrive, it is necessary to reach in the direction of your server's voice, find their hand and carefully retrieve the glass. This process is repeated with every interaction, each time increasing the amount of trust you must have in their skill.

Naturally taste, texture and smell are all major contributing factors in a great dish. Eating a meal in the pitch-black may seem unconventional; it is. However for those without sight, it is a regular occurrence. Without sight other senses are heightened. Inhibitions that may arise due to the way a plate is presented melt away. The softest sounds are suddenly crystal clear; the sense of smell becomes a means to define your surroundings. Using only aromas and sounds, the mind begins to paint a picture. Whether or not that picture is perfectly accurate is irrelevant. When touch is introduced, the mind's painting comes to life and becomes multidimensional.

Eating in the dark is an experience that changes the way one feels about dining. Even when eating a salad or main entrée, fingers become necessary tools. Texture becomes extremely important. Before tasting the steak I had ordered, I knew it was extremely tender; I had felt it. Before I even ate the meat I knew what it would taste like; I had smelled it. I anticipated the dish in more ways than one and when food finally touched my tongue I appreciated every detail. Before guiding us out of the restaurant, Lynn brought us dishes of warm lemon-water; confirmation that using your fingers in an haute restaurant is completely normal at Opaque.

Those that love food are always looking for a refreshing culinary experience. Individuals who enjoy trying new things often step out of their comfort zone to do so. Opaque has created an avenue that intertwines a love of food with a curiosity of the unfamiliar. Dark Dining offers the opportunity to truly appreciate the power of taste, touch, scent and sound; while forcing you to reevaluate your outlook on food itself. This restaurant experience is one that will leave you with a different perspective on much more than just dining.
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