Stepping out of the Uber and looking around the quiet Montreal neighborhood street, I felt a little nervous. I’m not scared of the dark, but I don’t find myself at home in it either; probably a result of watching too much Goosebumps as a kid. Walking towards the restaurant, I didn’t know what to expect, but now that I’ve been, I can honestly say that the O.Noir Montreal Restaurant was one the best experiences I’ve ever had.
What is O.Noir Montreal?
When I found out I was going to visit both Toronto and Montreal I knew I definitely had to visit O.Noir. Essentially, it’s like any other restaurant, but the difference with O.Noir is that it’s all in the dark. And when I say dark, I mean can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face, where-the-hell-am-I kind of dark. Suddenly a regular meal turns into a sensual dining experience where your senses are heightened like never before. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the restaurant’s wait staff are all legally blind. If you have ever been curious to feel what it’s like to be blind, this experience will show you. Amazing at building awareness for all disabilities, the restaurant also donates a percentage of its profits to local associations supporting blind and visually impaired people.
The O.Noir Experience
Thanks to the unusual concept, the whole set-up of the restaurant is different than your normal meal. On arrival, we were greeted by staff who directed us to a rail where we could hang our coats. We also had to put any bags we had into a locker. I will point out this was all done in the light; the darkness came later.
We moved over to a cozy seating area next to the bar and began looking at the menu. You can have up to 3 courses, and either choose from the menu or have a surprise. I really wanted to make the most of the experience so opted for a surprise dessert but two brave people in my group went for 3 surprise courses! It’s worth pointing out that we were all also asked about any allergies because obviously, you won’t be able to see what’s in front of you.
After giving our order, we set, had a chat and waited for our table to get ready. When it was time for us to enter the actual restaurant, we were introduced to our wait staff and lined up in the order we gave our meal selection. Putting our hands on each other’s shoulders, we walked from light to dark, and through the restaurant to our seat. I think this was actually the hardest bit because you have the sensory shock. Honestly, I had a mental freak out for the first couple of minutes because I’d never been in the total darkness before. As you’re walking, you can hear all the other tables making noise and it seems so close and loud. For me, I really struggle trusting people and giving over control, but I quickly realized that I’d have to in order to get through the next 1 hour and 30 minutes. As soon as I did that, things were a lot easier. Once we were stood behind our seat, we were told to move to a certain side and sit. I will tell you now that I was nowhere near my cutlery but soon worked it out thanks to slowly touching. It was from this point on that everything was down to touch and hearing. We quickly worked out who was sat opposite through talking and reaching hands out.
Once we were stood behind our seat, we were told to move to a certain side and sit. I will tell you now that I was nowhere near my cutlery but soon worked it out thanks to slowly touching. It was from this point on that everything was down to touch and hearing. We quickly worked out who was sat opposite through talking and reaching hands out. Drinks went fine, with no spills, even for those with red wine! I’m still pretty proud that Suzie & I managed to clink glasses on the first attempt. I’ll also say that I have never had a more refreshing glass of Coke. Like seriously, I’m a super fast drinker and it took me an hour to drink a single glass; not because I didn’t know where it was, but because I was tasting it properly.
Believe it or not, bread was also passed around and some people even managed to cut it, and butter it with a knife. Now that was impressive. The main course proved a little tricky. I had a grilled beef shoulder and obviously had to cut it. I know some people just used their fingers for the entire meal, but I gave using my knife a go, and actually found it pretty easy. The tricky thing was knowing if you had anything left on your plate. I know I mentioned before about heightened senses but this was one of the most impressive parts; feeling fuller quicker. As I was eating, I realized that I was actually tasting everything and when it came to giving the wait staff our plates, he said mine was only half eaten. That shocked me so much because I was full. Clearly, there is some truth in that we eat because it’s there rather than being hungry.
By this time I’d got used to everything and was actually enjoying having conversations, knowing everyone was closely listening. We get so distracted by modern life we forget to take notice of things and just take it for granted; this experience changed that for me. We even tried to work out where our table was in the room, how many tables were in the room etc based on the sounds from other tables. Not being able to just look makes you work so much harder.
It was now time for dessert, the course I was most anxious about. You’ll remember that I chose a surprise course for my dessert, meaning I had no idea what was coming. It’s worth also mentioning surprise courses are something completely different from the menu, so you literally have no clue. Impressed with my new confidence, I went ahead and started it. Hilariously, everyone who ordered the surprise course thought it was something different but we all agreed there was dark chocolate in it. I even managed to pass my entire dish across the table so my other travel buddies could have a taste. We were getting good at this. When the wait staff came back, he asked what we thought it was and, amazingly we kinda got it right; it was an apricot sorbet on a dark chocolate biscuit base!
After everyone had finished their drinks, we were lead out the same way as we came in, and adjusted to the light again. Everyone agreed that this was an incredible experience.
The O.Noir Food
It’s so easy to forget to talk about the food at O.Noir Montreal because, in all honesty, the whole concept is the main focus. However, this is a restaurant, and obviously, the food is important. Whilst there might be no opportunities for food selfies for all you Instagram lovers, it’s pretty delish. For those wondering, the actual kitchen itself is lit, and the cooks aren’t blind. I’ll also mention that the menu changes quite regularly to allow people to return, so if you are visiting, try looking at the menu nearer the time. I didn’t actually have a starter, but for the main course, I ordered the Grilled Beef Shoulder Fillet with paprika sauce, seasonal vegetables, and potatoes. The meat was cook absolutely perfect and was incredibly tender. My surprise dessert was something I wouldn’t have ordered for myself but was delicious all the same. The experiences heighten your senses, and I have to say it really made me appreciate every flavor. Talking to others in my group, they all really enjoyed their food too, and in fact, no one had a bad word to say!
I know there are quite a few different restaurants like this but I would really recommend giving O.Noir Montreal & Toronto a go, especially as they do such good community work!
Would you give this a go? Let me know in the comments below!
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