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Lights-Out Dining Venture Trips, Falls Flat

Every fine restaurant needs a little mood lighting, but how would you like to eat in total darkness? No? Didn’t think so, but somebody in the industry felt like it was a brilliant idea.

Fussy New Yorkers love some high-concept dining—our restaurant industry is notoriously brutal, and if a new Manhattan kitchen doesn’t have a great pedigree and a killer hook then it’s not likely to last a year. High-end restaurateurs don’t just sell great food, they sell an experience—for example, the recent re-branding of five-star eatery Eleven Madison Park includes card tricks, smoke-filled domes and cheese courses served in tabletop picnic baskets.

That being said, we think we can add “dining in the dark” to the long list of business ideas best kept in the board room. Midtown Manhattan’s Danse le Noir? (question mark theirs!) claims to free diners from their “inhibitions” and “awaken” their senses by empowering them to “completely re-evaluate…perception[s] of taste, smell, and texture.”

Yeah, OK. But the food fanatics at Eater make short work of that idea in a hilarious blog post describing dinner at Danse as “the worst experience I’ve ever had in a restaurant.” One editor writes that “I’ve never come so close to having a panic attack in my entire life.” More, please!

The restaurant requires diners to sign a waiver and store their belongings in a basement locker room—and it gets better: the interior is truly pitch black, with servers leading diners to their tables by hand and insisting that they turn off backlit watches and other sources of light. By the way, the food isn’t anything to write home about either.

Sounds like the next big thing—or not.

The weirdest part of this story is the fact that Dans le Noir already has branches in Paris, London, Barcelona and Saint Petersburg. Maybe diners are more open-minded overseas—or maybe they just have better PR teams on the other side of the Atlantic. Would you eat here? If so, we have to commend you for your bravery. Or question your sanity.

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