Opaque: The rest of the story
Friday, September 12, 2008, 5:56 PM
Like the website promises, an evening at Opaque is an experience.
That's why I wanted to go.
That's why I bugged my friends to go.
And that's why I wouldn't cave and just eat dinner at someone's house blindfolded.
For some reason, I was surprised by how many other people were in Opaque's lobby area. I guess I'd expected the employees to stagger guest reservations, or that the restaurant was smaller or had less of an appeal because everyone I'd talked to or emailed about the dark dining thing didn't seem that interested in going (ahem), or said/wrote that they would never go to such a place (ahem).
Surprise, surprise, ya'll! Opaque is the new Karaoke (you read it here first).
In addition to my party of four, there was a group of six, and another cozy couple (not counting others that came later in the evening). None of us had ever been to the restaurant, everyone was wearing black or dark clothing, and we were all in jolly spirits imagining the oh, oopsies to come. We introduced ourselves to each other. I remember Debbie and Dennis, and that's it because I've never been good with names.
The hostess, who was wearing an ear bob and wee microphone, handed us the menus (I snapped a photo) and we chose our three-course-meal. There's a pre-defined menu and there aren't a lot of choices, which cuts down on the I can't decide what I want time, but everything sounded wonderful. My menu of choice:
Spring baby lettuce with mixed nuts,
and grilled stone fruit with champagne vinaigrette
Spice-crusted flat iron steak, spring baby vegetables,
mashed potatoes and silky cabernet sauce
Bailey cheese cake with vanilla essence
Once we all placed our orders, the hostess let our server know we were ready. "Table 5 is ready for you, Lynn," she said into the mike.
The restaurant states its wait staff is blind or legally blind, and our waitress was definitely legally blind. She wore no eyepatches or shades, which was a bit of a shock for me, but what can I say, I'm easily shockified.
Lynn said she could see shadows, but that was it. I thought about asking for a photo, then was immediately ashamed of myself. (Just one reason why I'd never make a good reporter.)
BUT. Apparently I'm corrupted and no longer as naive as I once was, because I wondered, my whiskers twtching, if maybe Lynn was wearing contacts that made her eyes look, er, blind. They can do a lot with contacts these days, you know....
That thought vanished, along with my eyesight, when Lynn lead us--her train of feet-shuffling humans--into the restaurant. The doorway was draped with black felt and looked like the entrance to an abyss or a corny Halloween party, and the floor was covered with something that felt like a heavy plastic rug--so we could "hear" our footsteps. With each step I took farther inside, my hands tightened more and more around Annabelle's shoulders until finally I was almost cowering against her back.
Holy cow, it was BLACK. There was a glass-and-a-half of wine in my bloodstream, but it wasn't fortifying me at all. I knew it was going to be dark (hello), but there are different colors of dark. Of black. And this was skerry black.
But have you ever noticed that things aren't how you usually imagine them?
Lynn was wearing bells around her ankles. At first I didn't notice them at all because I was too busy thinking about was how friggen dark it was, about how I really didn't want to fall or break my neck and end up in the ER with everybody giving me the look that says I knew this was a bad idea.
Our footsteps sounded like scritch-scrape, oopmh, hee-haw, clump-clump, ohmigod, hah, ow, oh crap!, giggle, snort, yeowl [bad word, bad word], sorry, clumpity-clump, ow!
As freaked out as I was at the pitch blackness, I couldn't help laughing about it all. That was me you heard giggling and snorting above.
Lynn seated us one at a time popcorn-string style. "Andi, your seat is to the left," she told me. She took my arm in hers and when she had my hand, she pressed it against the table. It felt like a card table wrapped in thick fabric. (Annabelle swears the table cloth was red, blood red. I don't know why, she's nuts.) I was the train's caboose, so I was the last one to sit down. I sighed big time once I sat, too. I'm about as uncoordinated as a person can get while seeing where I'm going. Moving around blind isn't just dangerous for me.
Lynn, who has a photographic memory or who wore night vision goggles, then introduced us to each other.
"Teresa is sitting next to Anna, who is sitting across from Andi, and Annabelle is sitting across from Teresa." She had us girls shaking hands like we were strangers meeting for the first time, and we might have been, because it was too dark to see my own hand in front of my face. Who's to say I wasn't shaking the Bride of Frankenstein's hand?
My fork was to the left, spoon to the right, yadda-yadda. I swept all the metal to my left side and put my napkin in my lap because I had no intention on using my silverware. Sue me! Along the way, I felt the rose petals scattered across the table. I lifted one to my nose and sniffed. And then I ate it because I know it's possible to eat rose petals--I read or saw this somewhere.
Anna, my across-the-table mate, took charge of the bread and butter when it arrived. Anna loves a challenge. She's never met one she probably hasn't overcome. She took care of buttering our bread (with a knife, or so she says).
"Andi, give me your hand," she'd say. And in it she'd place a piece of neatly buttered bread.
Teresa and Annabelle (especially Annabelle) were all, "Ohmigosh, how can you butter bread in the dark? Mummpfh, this is good, num-num-num. I can't believe yadda-yadda, blah-blah."
Yup, Anna was our go-to girl.
Yeah, YOU taste it first, Anna.
Sheee, Anna, YOU jump through the hoop of fire first.
Oh hell, yeah! Stick your head in the lion's mouth first, Anna.
Lynn came back with our drinks. I have no idea how she carried a tray of drinks across a pitch black room without tripping and falling, but wow, I couldn't do that with the lights on. Which is just another reason to consider the flip side of my "experience." I was but a momentary volunteer to be blind. My sight would return as soon as I stepped outside the restaurant.
I ordered a silky Cabernet to go along with my silky cabernet wine sauce. Actually, we all got wine--in big ole brandy snifters. I sighed with relief. Me and T are notorious glass knocker-overs, but if we were working with snifters, chances were good we wouldn't stain the table cloth.
Which I'm still curious about. Is it WHITE? Black? And would I be nuts if I called the restaurant to ask?
The thing about Lynn handing out our drinks is she not only remembered our NAMES, she remembered where we were sitting. Cabernet at one, Zinfandel at two, pinot noir at three and four and effin' woe if I mess it up...
Part of the--no, I'd say at least sixty-percent--of our experience at Opaque was interacting with Lynn, our waitress. When one is left sitting in an alien place in inky darkness, one needs a vibrantly bright personality to cling to, and Lynn was definitely that. I could tell she loved her job. I got the sense it was empowering for her to have us sighted folks willingly put ourselves in a disadvantaged setting. Maybe Lynn figured it was a way to connect on a level we otherwise wouldn't, because who wants to eat without being able to see one's food?
Yes, I know the list is long.
I kept blinking my eyes and waiting for my sight to adjust to the pitch black, but the dark dining advertisements weren't kidding when they meant dark dining. My sense of smell isn't that great and neither is my hearing, so I was blind in all respects. And because I was nervous, I already felt like I had to go pee but I wasn't brave enough to get back out of my seat yet.
The salad was wonderful. I loved it. I didn't use my fork once. Didn't need to. Food has always tasted better to me when it comes from my fingers. My only problem? There was too little of it. Salad, that is.
Meanwhile, there was an annoying clang-clang-clang coming from my left. It was making me wince, dammit. Seriously messing with my zen.
"What the frell is that?" I demanded.
Annabelle started laughing. She has a crazy, noticeable laugh, the kind I recognize even if I don't see who's doing the laughing.
"I can't find any lettuce," she laugh-wailed.
I made a sound. "Stabbing lettuce even when you can see doesn't work. Give me that fork."
Who knows what T and Anna were doing. I knew they liked what they're eating, though. Everything was good, especially since I'd confiscated Annabelle's dang fork and got rid of the awful clang.
...will update here and there, now and then (sorry)