Eating Dinner IN THE DARK--Blindfolded at San Chez

Kealoha and I decided to have one final date night as singles before the big wedding day…and what better way to celebrate than eating a ten-course dinner entirely in the dark? I mean, this was an obvious choice. So when San Chez sent an email saying they were having a Dinner In The Dark where guests were blindfolded and the menu was secret, Kealoha signed us up. (He’s no longer concussed so he was thinking fully when he agreed to it.)

What’s it like eating in the dark? Awkward at first, and then strangely sensual.

We sat down in the café part of San Chez and waited for the guests to arrive. What kind of people would subject themselves to eating blind? First, you have to have a pretty hefty amount of trust…and you also have to be okay with possibly looking ridiculous. About twenty or so others joined us with people from their late twenties to those daredevil baby boomers.

After waiting for some late customers (annoying. be on time.) the blindfolds came down.

You really couldn’t see. Suddenly the world became sounds and smells and touch. I told Kealoha if he wasn’t talking I wouldn’t know he was there. He put his hand on my knee. At least I think it was him.

The first course came. Every course was paired with an alcoholic beverage…and by the time we started eating we really, really wanted a drink. The server set the dish in front of us. “Okay,” she said, “it’s directly in front of you. There’s a little dish and a sauce. Enjoy.” That was all the instruction.

I gently used my fingertips to find the plate, lifted it to my lips and…then what? How did I eat it? I couldn’t see. I probed it with my fingertips and touched something silky and wet, and then some soft and cool pillow of sauce at the bottom of the dish. I wrapped my fingers around the item and put it tenderly in my mouth. (I could be writing an erotica novel right now.) It was delicious. Slightly sweet with a salty and nutty sauce. I had no idea what I was eating, but I liked it. I could tell by Kealoha’s grunts that he liked it too. Or he was doing push ups. Not sure about that.

Apparently, we were eating a Nori Salad Bouquet with Warm Soy Dressing. Lovely.

Next came bitter beer (not a fan) with a crispy bruschetta toast. The server said “It’s in front of you and is rectangular in shape. The topping is balanced on it.” Again, my fingers probed gently, I brought the bread up to my mouth and bit in. Chewy. Crunchy. Smooth. Buttery. Oh, bruschetta smeared with a warm butter. Really good butter too. Luscious. And then the acidic sweet taste of what I thought was marinated cherries. I crushed them with my tongue on the roof of my mouth. A blend and balance of sweet, salty, savory, cream. Mmm. What was it? Bone Marrow On Foccacia With Hawaiian Black Salt and Sherried Grapes.

Yes. Bone marrow. And it was good. I now understand why cave men sucked on bones and why we have the phrase “suck the marrow” of life. It’s pure decadent living…and makes a girl who sometimes swings vegetarian feel a smidge guilty.

The night wore on. It was a long time of sitting in the dark. Kealoha and I chatted about the upcoming wedding, memories, everyday stresses. A table of four women got drunk and took off their blindfolds, but everyone else stayed in the game. There were highlights of the night, and a few that weren’t as successful. One dish was cold, another warm. Some played with modern gastronomy techniques. You never knew what was coming.

The Cuban Deconstruct: Swiss Tuille, Gherkin, Pork Powder, Pickled Mustard Seeds And Atomized Mojo was a revelation. Seriously, it was like a perfect morsel of food. At once exciting, titillating, and harmonious. I’m not talking about music or sex, but I could be. Good food is like that.

And another favorite was the Sizzling Scallops. The restaurant sizzled and it sounded like rain. We caught a waft of smoke and the sea and then were presented with something balanced on a fork. I couldn’t take it in one bite, so I had to touch it. Soft, squishy, something fluffy on top. It was a perfectly cooked scallop (it dissolved in your mouth) with what tasted like caramelized brown sugar. In fact, the scalllop was topped with squid ink cotton candy. I really would’ve liked to have seen that one.

Less successful dishes included a Deep Fried Egg Yolk with Asparagus Foam and Lemon Zest. While the crunch and foaminess were texturally appealing, the dish lacked salt and flavor. The Foiley Pop was an exciting dish, but as a sometime vegetarian, it was a bit much for me. It arrived in a Ziploc bag. I fumbled with the bag to open it, revealing a puff of woodsmoke. I found the stick, and put the item in my mouth and immediately my tongue danced and popped. The gelatinous center though scared me. I imagined eating an eyeball lollipop or something, and I had to take a big drink of water. It was foi gras on a stick with sour berry pop rocks and cherry wood smoke. The people on Chopped would’ve been impressed; it just wasn’t my thing.

The evening ended around 11 and Kealoha and I were exhausted. The chefs toyed with our senses, the servers spritzed us with scents and surprised us with sounds, and Kealoha and I stumbled awkwardly through it, side by side.

Sort of a metaphor for marriage, I suppose.

Would I do this again? You bet. The evening pushed me out of my comfort zone with food and it made me aware that food is, at its best, a sensual experience. It was an adventurous night, and all we had to do was go downtown and put a blindfold on. And we got to keep our blindfolds…you know…in case we need them…for…uhm…another adventure.