Montreal: Dinner in the Dark at O’Noir

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You may have already heard about dark dining, a phenomenon that’s hitting bigger cities in the US such as New York and San Diego. Dark dining restaurants have cropped up in cities around the world, offering themselves up as a unique attraction to tourists and a fun date night for locals. The idea behind it is that with sight taken away, the senses that accompany eating, such as taste and smell, are heightened. Many of these pitch black restaurants offer five-star meals with vibrant flavors, while other restaurants offer dark dining for the fear factor.

In Montreal, the best dark dining restaurant is said to be O’Noir, the first one to open up in Canada. I decided to dine at the restaurant with my boyfriend and another couple, and the experience was one I’ll never forget.

The only photo I have posted of the restaurant is off the lobby because that was the only lit place in the building, where you select your food ahead of time. The other couple I was with took full advantage of the vegan and vegetarian menus, while we chose from the regular menu. For each course at O’Noir, you can opt to have one of the menu items or a surprise item. So I opted to have the surprise appetizer and dessert, while my boyfriend chose a surprise for his entrée, and we shared.

Another cool thing about these restaurants is that they serve a greater purpose than just heightening your dining experience. Dark dining restaurants are also huge employers for blind people. In a city with 70% employment rate, O’Noir hires all blind staff and donates a portion of their profits to local groups that assist blind and visually-impaired persons. When we asked our waiter how long it took to train for his job, he told us only 7 hours. We were pretty astounded by that fact, and maybe after reading the rest of this post, you’ll understand why.

When our waiter came to collect us from the lobby, we all had to put our hands on each other’s shoulders like a line dance. Then we were taken into a room that I think was very big, but it was pitch black so there was no way of knowing, with muffled conversations going on everywhere. I could feel waiters passing me with dishes, but miraculously, no one ran into each other. Our waiter took us to the bathrooms first, which thankfully were lit. When we came out of the bathroom, our waiter was gone for several minutes. We didn’t know what to do, staring down the dark hallway for so long that we actually started wondering if one of us should venture in to find him – which would have obviously been a disaster.

Finally, our waiter emerged out of the darkness with another group who had to use the bathroom. It was in this moment that I got accidentally, but full-throttle punched in the face. Not much else to say about that.

As we were heading to our table, I started to get nervous that this would all be too much. I had the sense that our eyes weren’t going to adjust to this darkness well enough to see anything – and this turned out to be true. However, they set up the restaurant so that you didn’t feel anxious at all. Other tables were, I could tell, spaced out decently well so that conversations could barely be overheard. The muffled noise made it all bearable, while having space to knock my elbows around a bit helped as well.

Speaking of which, how did we not knock anything over? They had a very calculated system of serving us. Any drink or plate they brought to our table would be touched to our outside shoulder, where we would take it and place it in its respective spot. The drinks were all supposed to go on the inside corner of the table, preventing anyone from spilling over the side of the table. Being a clumsy person, I was convinced I’d spill at least one thing, but I didn’t!

The food was delicious, especially the surprises. At the end of every surprise dish, we were asked to guess what we ate, then we were told what it actually was. We all guessed wrong on every surprise dish – so much for heightening our senses. I thought my dessert was some type of vanilla pudding and it turned out to be a lemon merengue pie. It was sooooo good though.

As for the dining experience, it was pretty interesting. You could tell after a while that nothing was very fancy in this dining room – probably because it doesn’t have to be. About 5 minutes into the meal, I stopped caring about my posture and other factors of dining etiquette that I had never even noticed I engage in. The food was so good that, at the end of it, we all admitted to having wiped our plates clean with our hands since no one could see. I regret nothing.

If you ever find yourself in Montreal and want to have a dark dining experience, I definitely recommend O’Noir. It sounds like it’ll be an anxiety attack at first, but I think you’ll find it surprisingly comfortable.

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Montreal: Les Deux Singes de Montarvie

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The translation of the restaurant’s name Les Deux Singes is “Two Monkeys,” and the wall decor of the place wouldn’t let you forget it. My favorite thing about this restaurant was its charm.  I knew after picking it that it was going to be very fancy, so I assumed I would be walking into a large restaurant with white table clothes and dim lighting. What I encountered instead was a quaint European-styled cafe with wooden tables and white Christmas lights along the walls, leaving it looking much like a trattoria you might stumble upon in Florence, Italy. There was a small, L-shaped bar at the back of the room and behind it, the entire kitchen. I saw all of my ingredients being cut from their plants and cooked right in front of me. Everything was fresh and exquisitely delicious. To my liking, the menu did not contain a lot of options. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was one page, with the back dedicated to wines and cocktails. I love when nice restaurants do this because I prefer to have a few choices of dishes that compliment each other and are prepared to perfection than an overwhelming amount of meals that have nothing to do with each other and leave you disoriented, digging through 12 pages of sub-par appetizers and entrees like the Cheesecake Factory menu.

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Soup of the Day
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Duck Confit

Every dish we ordered was plated really beautifully. For an appetizer, I chose the soup of the day which was a really yummy lobster soup that included black caviar and a little bit of spiciness. As my entree, I chose the Duo Duck BBQ Koreen, leg confit, and breast in a (white radish) and kimchee vinaigrette, served with a fried egg and salad. The presentation was gorgeous, and the flavor powerful and savory. I’m pretty known for being unable to finish big meat dishes, but I couldn’t help but shovel down every last bite of this one until I felt ready to pop.

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Scallop Ceviche
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Filet of Veal

My boyfriend ordered an appetizer that you won’t find online but was a scallop ceviche dish, served with kiwi, red quinoa, vegetables and a shaving of dried, smoked fish on top. He thought the acidity of the ceviche was very interesting paired with kiwi, as he had only ever had it served with more acidic fruit such as lemons and oranges, and because of that he really enjoyed it. For his entree, he got the filet of veal served with shallots, mushrooms, summer squash (my favorite), and an artichoke puree. He thought the meat was very tender and well marinated, while the veggies were cooked to perfection – for this guy, texture is everything, so he ate every last bite as well. It seemed that every table was given a complimentary chicken dumpling in a tangy red broth. We both thought it was very good and a nice touch on the service.

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Complimentary Dumpling

If you ever find yourself in Montreal and plan on spending a little extra money on a nice dinner, I definitely recommend this place. It was the perfect dinner to celebrate 5 years of love.