Dining In The Dark

New York City, November 1965

Even though I was just shy of being three years old I have some vague memories of the Northeast Blackout of 1965.  I remember being in the house with my mother, the kitchen lit with candles.  My mother was worried about my father, most probably trapped in the bowels of the New York subway system.  She and I sat in the kitchen, and she fed me spoonfuls of something (sorry, my memory is not that great) by candlelight.

I can say that my meal with Ju-Boy the other night was a bit similar, except that there was no candlelight, but there were spoonfuls of something…

Thanks to the Powers-That-Be at eluna.com, we managed to get a voucher for dinner at Blackout, one of the restaurants at the NaLaga’at Stage for the Deaf and Blind in Jaffa.  About two weeks ago we took five out of the gazillion kids we have together (Crown Prince and The Rani, Sassy and her Sabraman, and Shy-Boy) to the play, Not By Bread Alone.  Before the play we ate at the in-theater cafe, Cafe Kapish.  All the waiters are deaf, and to order your meal you point to the item on the menu, and then you start a whole dance with your hands and theirs to get your point across.  Upon entering the theater itself we saw all the (blind and deaf) actors sitting on the stage at tables, kneading bread.  At some point in the play the bread dough was placed in the ovens on stage, and a little while later the most amazing smell of baking bread drifted through the theater.  At the end of the show the whole audience was invited to come on stage, talk to the actors (through interpreters using sign language) and to eat some of the bread that had been baked during the course of the play.  Now, I’m not going to tell you that this was the most amazing bread I’ve ever eaten.  It wasn’t.  It lacked salt and was very yeasty-tasting, but honestly, did I really come to see this play for the bread? I totally recommend taking yourself down to Jaffa to see this lovely and emotional play, and do taste the bread, this is an experience that shouldn’t be missed.  These actors really make you look inside yourself, and I found them very inspirational.

Click to see the menu options (Hebrew only, sorry)

Blackout is the second restaurant on the premises.  The waitstaff in this restaurant aren’t deaf, they are blind.  Before entering the restaurant we placed our order with one of the sighted staff. We were then brought to our waitress, Devorah, who had me place my hands on her shoulders, and Ju-Boy then placed his hands on my shoulders.  We entered the special room and were plunged into complete darkness (why is it that one is always plunged into darkness?  For once I would like to be gently dipped…).

Dark?  Absolutely!  You could not see a thing.  We sat down at our table and Devorah told us where our silverware was, and where the pitcher of water was placed, as well as our glasses.  Even though we were given a fork and knife Devorah told us we might be more comfortable eating with our hands, and who would know?  She also reminded us that if we signal for her to come to the table nothing was going to happen, and that we should call out her name when we wanted her.  I felt around and poured us both a drink of water, listening carefully to the sound of the glass being filled with liquid so I wouldn’t spill.  Our first course arrived — I had the seared tuna and Ju-Boy had the smoked salmon with asparagus.  After a few tries I gave up on the fork and used my hands, as Devorah suggested.  Ju-Boy, proper Brit that he is, used his fork and knife throughout the meal.  I think he enjoyed the fact that he managed this feat even more than he enjoyed the meal.

My burri and curried lentils were delicious! Presentation was left to the imagination.

While we waited for our second course we spoke quietly in the darkness.  Actually, just sitting there in the dark can make you sleepy.  Devorah brought us our main course.  I had the burri (grouper) with curried lentils and Ju-Boy had some yummy panko-ed salmon with ratatouille.  He definitely got the better deal on this one.  While he ate his meal like the civilized person he is, I picked at the fish with my fingers and even ate my lentils by the handful.  Anyone in the room with night goggles would have seen me acting like a cavewoman.  Mmmm, fish good, lentils good, Miriyummy like!  Thankfully, before going into the dark room we were given the option of taking bibs. I’m so glad I did!

The wonderfully efficient Devorah came and whisked our (I will assume) cleaned plates away, and brought us our dessert.  I had an incredibly rich chocolate mousse with sugared almonds.  Ju-Boy was given pavlova with forest fruits. Once again, I think he got the better dish.  He asked me if I wanted a taste, and told me to hold out my hand.  He then plopped a piece of pavlova into it.  Yes, delicate meringue, whipped cream and forest fruits, plopped into my hand.  Again, I blessed the bibs.

At the end of the meal Devorah led us out into the light.  We stood there in the main entrance of the theater, blinking at the brightness.

Back when we ate at the Cafe Kapish Ju-Boy and I were so impressed with the waiters that we left a big tip, larger than usual.  Crown Prince disagreed with this, saying that this was not exceptional service, and we shouldn’t feel that we should tip big just because the waiters were deaf.  They were only doing their job.  This time around we decided that Devorah was a good waitress, but not exceptional.  And still, we left a sizable tip.   Sometimes it’s not the job well done that should be recognized, but the lesson learned.  Both times that we dined at Na Laga’at we had a good meal, and decent service.  But we were also taught to appreciate what we normally take for granted, and that is an invaluable lesson.

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About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 14 February 2012, in Restaurants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Oh, that blind restaurant has been on our list of things to do for years! Thanks for reminding me 🙂

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  2. It was on list of things to do as well. We saw it on auction on Eluna and that gave us the impetus to go for it.

    Going to see the play is also well worth the trip.

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  3. Although we went to the Dialog in the Dark tour in Holon years ago when it first opened (and still feel emotional about the experience to this day), the idea of eating in pitch darkness freaks me out. I can’t imagine enjoying a meal that I can’t see. I know that’s the whole lesson and idea, but I feel so unnerved by the idea that I don’t think I can ever go there. Loved your review nonetheless!

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    • It’s true that they say you taste with your eyes. I thought my burri was actually tasteless, and the smoked salmon did not taste like smoked salmon.

      Sitting in the pitch darkness was a little unnerving to start with, but we got used to it pretty quickly. I do have to admit that we probably did not enjoy eating the meal as much as we could had we actually had our sight, but we did enjoy the experience as a whole.

      If you don’t want to try eating blind, I do suggest trying out Cafe Kapish, the food is actually delicious and the experience of having deaf waitstaff also every eye-opening (or is that ear-opening?).

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  4. Tell me, are the chefs visually and/or hearing impaired?

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  5. I love the photo of your food!!! LOLOL

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  6. You got a way with words kiddo! Amazing.

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  7. I adore you, and your sense of humor! This is a place that has always drawn my fascination; but going out these days is a thing in the mind. Thank you for making me feel as if I were there in the dark with you, having bits of whipped cream and forest fruits dribbled on my dress, and not caring a whit. Tell Ju-Boy to stop showing off. No one can see him.

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  8. I’ve been to Cafe Kapish and wasn’t impressed by the service or the food. But the play was amazing and I definitely recommend it. I haven’t been to Blackout, but when I do go I think i will be brave and try the tasting menu, where you don’t know ahead of time what you are ordering!

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  9. What an interesting experien ce! I am not sure I would like to dine like that, but as a lesson! Unparalled!!!

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