Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blackout

My folks are in town, and last Thursday we went to dinner at one of the most unique dining experiences in Tel Aviv and probably the world as well. We had dinner at Mercaz Na Laga’at (The Please Touch Center). Na Laga’at is a center that puts on plays by actors who are both blind and deaf, a cafe run by deaf people, and a restaurant (Blackout) in pitch darkness run by blind waiters. The combination of these different elements involving deaf, blind, and deaf and blind people make it literally the only center of its kind in the world. Located in a renovated building in the Yafo port, it is truly one of the highlights of Yafo and the country.

The Blackout Restaurant puts forward a dining experience that makes you truly blind. A darkness is created in the restaurant that prevents you from seeing your hand an inch from your face, and you don’t ever adjust to it, no matter how long you stay inside. The most amazing part of the restaurant is that the waiters are blind as well. Using their knowledge of the layout of the restaurant and their acute sense of sound, the waiters are able to manage inside with no problem. Inside Blackout the tables are turned. Those who can see on the outside are at the mercy of those who cannot. The waiters lead you inside the restaurant with you grasping their shoulders as you adjust to not being able to see a thing. They bring you to your seat and culinary experience begins.

Eating while blind is an enhanced culinary experience, in my opinion, and by no means a drawback. There is an expression that you first "eat with your eyes". While this is true, people don't realize the culinary benefits of not being able to use your eyes while eating. Flavors become bolder, textures are more pronounced, and pouring your glass of water actually requires thought. I ordered the vegetarian “surprise”, meaning I did not know beforehand what I was going to be served, and clearly I couldn't see it either. The "surprise" ended up being an excellent ravioli with artichokes, peas, and jerusalem artichoke. For those that want to know what they’re eating beforehand you can choose from a set menu. Bibs are provided for those who worry about spilling food in the dark, but my experience is that you adjust quite easily and eat normally with only a fork.

Blackout is such a unique experience that I think it is a must eat location for anyone with some spare time in their visit to Tel Aviv-Yafo. However, as the restaurant is only open three days a week be sure to plan ahead and make a reservation.

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What your dining experience looks like
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Mercaz Na Laga’at located in the Yafo Port
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The entrance to the Blackout Restaurant
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The Blackout Restaurant from the outside
 
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