This is probably the only post from me that contains no pictures. Yes, I finally experienced NOX Dine in the Dark, and I have to say this stands out as one of the most memorable dining experiences I have ever had.
Truth be told, when NOX first opened back in 2013, I had briefly heard about it and thought the concept to be gimmicky. When I was contacted for the media tasting, I was surprised to find that they are still around! But after finding out what the concept is all about, and experiencing NOX first hand, I have to say that the experience was nothing short of amazing. If you are looking out for new experiences, or feel like every restaurant is the same these days, you need to go experience NOX.
So what is NOX – Dine in the Dark anyway? As the name suggests, guests dine in a restaurant that is completely pitch black. You have to use your other senses, such as taste, touch, smell and hearing to experience the food. The idea is that without sight, your other senses are heightened for a more exploratory dining journey. The servers are specially trained blind or visually impaired people. The prix fixe three course menu will be served via 12 tasting dishes, ie 4 dishes per course. If you don’t want “spoilers” you should totally go make a reservation right now (Christmas treat maybe?) and not scroll any further.
Okay if you haven’t opted for cocktails at the bar then the dining experience starts when you are served pre-appetisers at the bar area. This is the only area that is lighted, best opportunity for you to take pictures in case you need to prove to all of social media that you dined here. Next, they ask you to chuck your bag AND handphone into the lockers. Yes, no one ever thinks of this point even though we know that it’s going to be pitch black. For me, my phone has become like my safety line, I feel anxious to be without it! Like I will not take the lift without my phone, in case I get stuck and need to make emergency calls. But I can’t make too big a deal about it in case my dining companions think I am a wimp or drama queen. (I have actually been stuck in a lift for 45 minutes before, but I digress….)
Next we are told to put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front, like how the primary school children line up in school. And then we are led up a flight of stairs that grows progressively dark as we leave civilization. This is when it hits you that THIS IS IT. It really is completely dark! I was actually pretty apprehensive at this point because hey STAIRS, NO LIGHTS! You start being so thankful for being sighted and wonder about the strength and resilience of people who are visually impaired and all the obstacles that they have to face every single day. We will regain sight in 2 hours, while they have no respite from this.
Once the initial nerves die down, it becomes exciting. You soon realise that there are other people dining nearby as well. My eyes strained and strained to find a light source and I ended up staring at some reddish spots of light in the ceiling, presumably the CCTV or water sprinklers, I’m not sure. Some of my dining companions choose to keep their eyes shut throughout the entire meal, but a few others like me were the exact opposite.
Our server was a pretty friendly chap who proceeded to explain the procedures for the evening. Basically we would be served 3 courses, each course comprising of 4 small bowls placed on a platter. The food will be portioned into bite sized pieces and we are given only forks and spoons. I only used the spoon the entire evening. So much for all the misconceptions of having to slice steak in the dark and some how flinging it at my dining companions.
And the fun really starts when the dishes arrive. All of us at the table were trying our best to identify the items that we were eating. Glad to report that we got most of the dishes right, except for a duck dish that nobody could guess. I did wonder why the dish reminded me so much of KFC, but I didn’t make the connection! I also enjoyed all the dishes that were served, savoury ones more so than desserts though. I was pretty sad when the last course arrived, because that meant our evening was coming to a close!
Another great thing about dining in the dark was that conversation seemed to flow more freely. Perhaps we were all feeling hyper from all the new experiences, or perhaps one feels less inhibited when the rest of the table can’t see your face. Certainly a very big plus point for me. NOX would be a fantastic venue for team building sessions with colleagues, don’t you think?
After the end of the meal, we made our way back to the ground floor for a quick debrief of what we had eaten. We were shown pictures of all our dishes so that’s why we know we got most of the dishes right. We discovered we’d spent nearly 2 hours dining in the dark, but really it felt like it was but an hour!
All in all, it was an exciting and memorable dining adventure for me. But I have to say, NOX is not for everyone. First of all, you must be flexible to not just new experiences, but new tastes. That is to say if you’re fussy with your food or you’re prone to shunning certain foods based on the textures or preparation methods, then NOX is not the place for you. The dishes we were served included chicken, beef, pork, lobster…pretty safe options actually. But if you’re the type where if you cannot see your food and your mind starts to think the worst, then NOX is not for you. I’m saying this because my good friend checked out NOX upon my recommendation and had a pretty horrible experience where she did not finish a single dish. I was quite mad at her actually, because why bother to go if you’re going to be fussy! Here is a person that is brave enough to go travelling alone, do extreme sports and chat up strangers, but she can’t relax and enjoy a meal without seeing what it is she is eating.
5 year old NOX – Dine in the Dark is now helmed by a new Head Chef Mohammad Shahrom, who will introduce a refreshed modern European menu with a focus on seasonal, quality produce. He previously worked as Head Chef of Lolla and Madison Rooms. NOX also boasts a new Head Bartender, Muhammad Hussien, the former mixologist at Orgo with a flair for Asian ingredients and flavours. For an additional $30 – $50, you can also have beverage pairing with your meal (mocktail, cocktail or wine pairing). Or you could opt for ala-carte drinks at the bar, the only place at NOX for customers that is lighted.
NOX – Dine in the Dark
Address: 269 Beach Road, Singapore 199546
For Reservations: Call (65) 6298 0708 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, from 6pm to Late Last Order: 9.30pm (Monday to Thursday); 10pm (Weekends)
Capacity: 60 seats