To a very big extent, feasting with the eyes is part of the experience of eating out and in today’s culture of Instagram-ing everything that we eat and showing the whole world what we have for dinner, being unable to see our food is… strangely a handicap.
NOX on Beach Road offers a pitch dark dining experience and by that I really mean total darkness. The kind where even if you put up your hands in front of your face, you can’t see the slightest trace of any shape, outline or shadow. The only thing you can see is black here, and in this space NOX serves up a 3-course modern European cuisine tasting menu with optional three flights of wine. This is certainly an interesting experience, even for the most hardcore of food geeks as the identities of some ingredients can be elusive even to the most seasoned palettes. Without the ability to see what you eat, diners are encouraged to take their time to savor their food by relying on other senses to appreciate the flavors, smells and textures of the food served.
My visit to NOX had me struggling in the beginning to make sense of where I was spatially and what I was “looking” at. Squinting and waiting for my eyes to get used to the darkness was futile. There isn’t such a thing of letting the eyes adjust to the darkness, so to maximize the experience, just resign to shutting your eyes and follow instructions given by the waitstaff.
When the food was served, some aimless hand wavings took place while trying to locate utensils. Conveniently enough, the food was served in little bowls sitting atop a charger plate that made things easier to locate. The only way to eat is by bringing the bowl really close to the face and scooping its content straight into the mouth. To drink, gingerly reach out to the glass, try not to knock anything else down and after you locate the glass dip a finger into it when you drink so you can gauge the water level. But really, it isn’t all as dramatic or difficult as it sounds. Besides, it’s dark and no one can see anything, not even any mess or spills.
Having the sense of sight is indeed a privilege that must be not be taken for granted. The waitstaff at NOX are all visually-impaired and the restaurant provides an excellent employment opportunity for them. In this environment, the tables are turned (proverbially speaking). The waitstaff expertly guide diners into the dark space, escorting them to their tables and nimbly serving food.
While the 3-course tasting menu at NOX isn’t outrageously expensive (S$88 per person), what I regard as priceless is the fact that you can’t whip out your phone and tippety-tap away during dinner. When did it become socially acceptable to be engaged in text messages or check your Facebook and Twitter the whole time when you’re out with someone having a meal together? We all do this, I’m guilty too until I realized how rude and anti-social the habit is (although I absolve myself from this sin when I’m in boring/egotistical/whiny company). Generally speaking, do it at your own time when you are alone! Sans this distraction, you get to socialize and interact with your dining companion throughout a meal at NOX and I find it meaningful. (Pssst, read this article on how smartphones are ruining restaurant experiences.)
Curiosity always gets the best of us and obviously you will want to know what you have eaten (and paid for!). After the meal you will be escorted back to the lounge area where the staff shows you all the food on an iPad screen. Correct and incorrect guesses combined with swanky signature cocktails are sure to fuel more fun conversations during this unforgettable dining experience.
I won’t spoil anyone’s suspense by divulging what I ate there, so I will keep that in the dark (heh). You should go and try it for yourself. Besides, to keep things mysterious, every month NOX updates its menu so adventurous diners can revisit with anticipation.
269 Beach Road
Tel: +65 6298 0708