Dining in the dark concept has been around for quite some time and I am so glad that I have made it eventually. If you are comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone to the world without sight and putting yourself in the hands of some of the best staff I have had the pleasure of being served by, then Noir is an excellent choice. It would definitely bring your eating experience to a competely different level, in an extraordinary way.
Noir is perhaps one of very few businesses that gives the job opportunities to those who are blind and visually impaired and provides them with the training and skills needed to work in restaurant. This project does not only help to lower the umemployment rate amongs blind and visually impaired people in Vietnam (which is quite high at about 94%), but it also allows them to integrate into the community. Their mission is also to raise awareness about the the blind and visually impaired community and turn the tables on society's attitudes to disability.
From the moment we arrived, we felt very welcomed by the lovely owners and the amazing engaged staff at Noir. Our night started with a welcome drink (choice of alcohol and non-alcohol drink) and we were asked to take part in this blindfolded game which helped to prepare ourselves for the coming exciting dining experience. After ordering our food (choice of mystery Western, Eastern and Vegetarian set menus) and drinks and putting away our belongings in the secured locker, we were greeted with a great big smile by our amazing waiter Tâm right downstairs before heading up to the dark dining room. Tâm was born blind and has been working at Noir for 3 years. He said he loved his job very much and I know he really meant it. This man definitely takes pride in what he does. I could feel his enthusiasm and passion in his job from his tone of voice and I felt truly happy for this beautiful person.
Having my hand on Tâm's shoulders, I was guided to our table. The moment I entered the pitch-black dining room, I realized I had just got into a complete different world, the world that I had never lived in and had had no idea how to live in. My excitement went off for few seconds as the unfamiliarity with the darkness got me feel vulnerable. Fortunately, Tâm was just right there, kept me in good conversation and it definitely comforted me. Soon enough all the excitement came back and I was absolutely ready for this little adventure. I know I could place my trust on Tâm and actually the only person I (and my hungry stomach) could rely on was him. With his assistance, I managed to make it to my seat without injuring myself stumbling or bumping into the neighboring tables in the dark. What an accomplishment!
My dining companion and I ordered the same menu as suggested as it was thought to be more fun that way to guess what we were eating. We both other the 3 course Eastern menu and it came with 11 dishes. Yes, e-l-e-v-e-n. The starter and main course tray contained 4 dishes each and the dessert tray came with 3. Growing up in Vietnam and being familiar with many Asian ingredients, I thought I would excel in this guessing game, but I did struggle a bit. Some dishes were rather tricky to tell. We were showned and explained what we had eaten from the menu after we finished our meal at the lobby room. I got a bit more than half of them. I assumed I did rather okay as the first timer.
I cannot stress enough the fact that Tâm was our hero of the night and played the great part in our dining experience at Noir. He was there to walk us through the whole dining experience from the begining till the end and kept checking on us during the meal. Tâm and other blind and visually impaired waiters/waitresses who are seen as disadvantaged in the outside world, but here they have the upper hand by knowing their way around this dining room. Life in the darkness as how I briefly exprienced has helped me to gain the greater appreciation of lives led permanently in the dark and other different perspectives about my own self.
Though eating in the dark might be not the most comfortable feeling, it is totally worth giving a try and I cannot recommend this extraordinary dining experience enough when you are visiting Ho Chi Minh city. I personally love business that practice social responsibility, great experience, great food, great ambiance and great serivce, and Noir offers all of them. Happy dining!
Address: 180D, Hẻm 178 Hai Bà Trưng street, district 1.