Robb typically, and in the manner of Homer’s Odyssey, likes starting a story in the middle. In the middle of dinner, in fact.
“I think it’s a pork salad of some sort.”
“It isn’t, it’s squid”
“It’s not squid, I know what squid tastes like, and I know I don’t like it. This isn’t squid.”
“Well, maybe we’re not eating the same thing”
“That’s possible I suppose”
“Why don’t you try some of mine?”
“Ok. Erm. . . How?”
“I’ll put some on my fork and hold it out, just reach forward and take it”
“Robb, did you just drop the fork on the floor?”
“No honey, you just knocked over my Margarita.”
“Oh. Are you sure?”
“Well it’s hard to be certain, but the cold liquid dripping off the table and in to my shoes, combined with the fact that my starter tastes more like tequila than the last mouthful did, is fairly compelling evidence”.
Dine In the Dark. It’s a silly idea.
You join us in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, where we have stopped for a night exclusively in order to break the journey from Kampot to Siem Reap in to two more manageable (ie. less than 10 hours) chunks. And where we have decided on a whim, to pay a visit to a famous restaurant.
It’s not famous because of the food, although the globally-sourced gourmet cuisine is reason enough to come here. It’s not even famous because all of the serving staff are blind. No, it’s famous because once you pass beyond the Hostess’s desk and three tiers of heavy curtains, you’re in darkness. And I don’t mean any old darkness, like when you turn the lights off in your bedroom at night, I mean complete and total blackness. Like you’ve had you’re eyes gouged out, your head encased in concrete, and been buried 600 feet beneath the Antarctic ice. In winter.
And to ensure that you don’t spoil this atmosphere of tenebrosity, anything you’re carrying that can give off the slightest amount of light is confiscated before you enter, so obviously out go the mobile phones and cameras (that ought to be de rigueur in every restaurant in the world in my opinion), but they even went so far as to take my watch, because it has a tiny ‘indiglo’ light. Darkness is taken seriously here.
You also don’t get to choose what you’re eating, that’s kind of the point. All we know is the meal will be three courses, and the theme is ‘International’. Which could really mean anything. And this is where you discover that you know nothing about food. I’m a decent cook, and the girth of my waistband would seem to support my assertion that I can tell a soufflé from a sausage roll, but here, devoid of any information either verbal or visual about the meals being placed before us, we were revealed as fools.
Miss Marie-Carmen remarked upon how perfectly cooked the chestnuts were. Mr Bob questioned where in Cambodia they had managed to find such delicious olives. And when, with our stomachs full, we were led back out in to the light and shown photographs of the food we had eaten, there was much bemusement. There had been no chestnuts. There had been no olives. And the starter, which had been responsible for the demise of my frozen Margarita, was revealed to have been neither pork nor squid. It was beef. In fact, the only thing we’d managed to agree upon was that the main course was fish, and we’d both been wrong about what type of fish it was.
I don’t know if there’s a restaurant like this back home (probably, most likely it’s half as good and 27 times the price. . ) but if you ever get the chance, give it a go. Preferably equipped with night vision goggles so that you can creep about unseen, tying other diner’s shoelaces together and pouring absinthe in the vicar’s tea.
NB: This post isn’t sponsored. We really enjoyed our time at DID and wanted to write a post about it. If in Phnom Penh make sure to check them out! DID – Dine in the Dark