Taste is such a complicated sense. Taste is connected to our other four senses and what we “taste” is influenced by smell, touch, texture, sight and even temperature. When Tim and I go wine tasting, we like to smell the wine and then swish the wine around the glass to see the wine’s “legs”, before finally taking that first sip. We like to see the presentation of our food and admire how chefs can make art on a plate. But we threw all of that out the window and had dinner in the dark in Berlin at Nocti Vagus.
We arrived for our 7pm reservation a little early, dripping and glad to get out of the snow that was heavily coming down outside. We were greeted and sent downstairs to check in our coats and any bags. This is so that no one in the restaurant trips over coats or bags hanging off the backs of chairs. I was allowed to keep my purse, but instructed I would need to place it in front of my feet under the table once we entered the restaurant.
We then took our seats in the bar/lounge area and perused the menu while sipping on glasses of Prosecco. There is a meat menu, vegetarian menu, or a surprise menu in which the chef decides what you eat. Tim and I both opted for the surprise menu. If we were going to be adventurous and dine in the dark, why not completely lend ourselves to the experience? We were asked if either of us had any food allergies or any foods we really didn’t like and the waiter made a few notes: no yams or squash for me.
While our order was placed and we waited for our table to be set, we had a pea soup, which would be the only food we would actually see.
It was finally time to succumb to the dark; cell phones had to be turned off and watches with any sort of back light taken off and put away. We entered a low-light chamber to help our eyes adjust for a moment and rapped on the door. The voice of our waiter appeared out of the pitch black and he introduced himself as Wolfgang, or Wolf for short. Wolf himself was blind and he’d be guiding us through our meal.
He took my hand and had Tim place both his hands on my shoulders. We weaved through the pitch black to our table and got seated side by side. Wolf explained what was on the table, taking our hands to show us where to find our water and wine glasses. He explained in detail that the water had a cap on it and the wine was in a decanter. “Put your finger inside of your glass as you pour,” he instructed. I failed immediately, pouring water onto the tablecloth. After a moment, the water finally made it into my glass and I joked to Tim that we should have ordered white wine instead of red.
Next came a basket of bread with dipping sauce in a bowl. Tim left the bowl of dipping sauce in the basket whereas I thought it would be easier to take the little bowl out and put it in front of me while dipping my bread. I made another mess, sloshing the sauce out of the bowl and onto the tablecloth. Silverware hit the floor somewhere to my right.
Our starters arrived and we began pushing our forks around our plates. Tim laughed as I said I got three mouthfuls of nothing. We talked back and forth guessing what we were eating. It seemed to be some sort of salad and I thought there was a type of meat on the plate. After finishing, Wolf explained we had rabbit tartare with caramelized onions, tomato jelly, salad, and red pepper marmalade. We both just got a totally new appreciation for the blind taste test segment on all those episodes of Hell’s Kitchen we’d watched!
In between courses, we listened to the sounds around us. Everyone seemed so loud and I asked Tim if he thought we were speaking that loud. We tried to gauge how many people were actually in the room. We stretched out our legs to see what we could feel in front of us; there were two more chairs so we determined it was a table for four. Conversations would halt as everyone chuckled when someone would shout out their waiter’s name – the only way of alerting your waiter you needed something.
A little later our main course arrived and it was once again a guessing game of what we were eating. Tim did really well! He guessed it was some sort of game meat with spinach and mashed potatoes on the plate. I noted there was a type of cabbage and tomatoes on the plate. We’d gotten more proficient in the dark but both came up with empty forks on occasion. I know I had one more piece of meat on my plate, but for the life of me couldn’t find it. I finally gave up figuring I dropped it off my fork onto the table or maybe even the floor. Wolf cleared the plates and told us we had eaten guinea fowl stuffed with cheese, spinach, beet root mashed potatoes, and cabbage with cherry tomato.
We both managed to fill our water and wine glasses without further spills and dessert arrived. Dessert was definitely the easiest to guess of the courses. We both knew there were berries on the plate and could taste banana. It turned out to be banana cheesecake with marinated blueberries and cherry ice.
Once finished, Wolf asked if we were ready to get up. I picked up my bag and he told me to wait. He helped Tim over, placed his hands on my shoulders again, and then Wolf took my hand to lead us out to the chamber again. We had been in the restaurant for two hours and listened to Wolf’s soothing voice, yet we didn’t get to look into his face until after we were all in the chamber and the low lights came up. And unlike the two of us that could finally place the face with the voice, Wolf would only ever know us by the sounds of our voices.
While dinner in the dark was a fun experience (and I do mean dark; our eyes never adjusted to see anything and Tim just closed his most of the time), it was also humbling. I’ve never been so thankful for the gift of sight.
Know Before You Go
- Dinner in the dark can be booked online from around $77 per person. Drinks are separate and we spent around an additional $25 for 2 glasses of Prosecco, a liter of water, and a liter of wine.
- Spills are inevitable, so wear something you don’t mind spilling on.
- Nocti Vagus is located at Saarbrücker Straße 36-38; S-Bahn stop: Alexanderplaltz or U-Bahn stop: Senefelderplatz
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Thank you to Viator for hosting us for dinner in the dark. As always, all opinions and decisions to blindly eat a surprise menu are entirely our own.