LIFE&STYLE

Dining in the dark

By Korea Herald

Restaurant takes away sight for unique dining experience

  • Published : Apr 26, 2013 - 20:21
  • Updated : Apr 26, 2013 - 20:21
Plush red dcor. Mood music. Low lighting. It’s the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two. Until you have to walk down a hallway in pitch black darkness, holding on tightly to the shoulders of the person in front of you, making you feel as though you’ve entered a horror movie.

After a slightly nerve-wracking walk of trust in the dark, a server helps you sit in a dining room where you can’t see the food in front of you, much less the person sitting across the table from you. However, music and conversations from other tables drift across the void, giving one the strangest sensation.

It takes a while to adjust to the loss of sight, and for those who have any sort of fear of the dark, the first 10 minutes or so can be particularly frightening.

According to owner Yoo Seung-hoon of Blind Art Restaurant in Geondae, an area near Konkuk University, however, this is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. The lack of sight allows diners to really open up to one another and share their inner feelings, he explained.

“The customers get emotional,” he said. “They have conversations they wouldn’t have if they could see each other.”

As far as Yoo knows, the restaurant, which opened in the winter of 2007, is the only one of its kind in Korea.

The concept came to him out of curiosity. Yoo had bad eyesight as a child and was curious as to what it would be like to eat without sight.

According to Yoo, taking away sight allows customers to taste food differently. 
The waiting area of Blind Art Restaurant in Geondae, Seoul. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

Without the ability to see, customers are left to eat by sense and instinct, something which comes in handy when cutting up a steak or boneless chicken breast by touch alone.

While the menu is rather ordinary ― an appetizer of sausage and fruit, followed by carbonara pasta, salad and a main course of barbecue chicken or steak and then ice cream for dessert ― without the ability to see the food, the flavor intensifies. And you become more focused on each bite as you attempt to first locate the food on the plate, before navigating it to your mouth.
A sign at Blind Art Restaurant in Geondae lists the rules for the dining establishment and who is recommended to dine there. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

Yoo and his staff put a lot of thought into creating the atmosphere. Since they take away the sense of sight, all the other senses are heightened. They take special care in picking out the right music and preparing the food.

Unlike many “blind” restaurants, the servers here wear night vision glasses in order to see. Yoo said he had tried to hire blind servers, as other establishments, but they were difficult to find and unwilling to work in a restaurant.

Yoo said during the dinner service they have a DJ and customers can submit stories that will be read aloud. They’ve had many proposals, but some of the more memorable stories are actually of couples that come in to break up or for one last dinner before they take a long break, such as before military service.

“Sometimes they come in and fight, but after dinner they are happy and take pictures,” he said.

Dinner is at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and the space can host up to 40 people at once.

Reservations can be made over the phone or on the restaurant’s website at www.blindrest.com.

Blind Art Restaurant

B1 Fl., 2-49 Hwayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul (02) 497-5248

By Emma Kalka (ekalka@heraldcorp.com)