Sunday, October 9, 2011
Opacity: Dinner in the Dark
Would you have a dinner in a place that you have never been without being able to see what you were eating? A friend of mine told me about this because she thought that I was an adventurous eater. She was correct and I dove at the chance to try this. The event is called Opacity and the idea is that you go to the set location, which turned out to be a nice mansion in River North, to eat a five course dinner at communal tables in the dark. The chef listed a link to Clandestino Dining, a premier underground supper club in Chicago so I had confidence that this would be good. The event happened on Fridays so I looked at my schedule and found a date that would work. The event was to go from 8-10 pm and I figured that they wouldn't be able to seat everyone immediately so I arrived a little early. The place looked pretty big from the outside but that was all I saw until the end of the evening. I walked up the stairs to the main entrance and met the hostess in a small alcove. She checked for my name and handed me the blindfold shown above. Before I put my blindfold on, I did notice that the room beyond was dimly lit in a green light but I didn't really see anything. I was guided to my table and was sat at the end which I liked because it gave me the illusion of having more room. The hostess that led me to my chair directed my hands to the water and wine glass, the event was BYOB and I brought a bottle of wine, and gave me instructions on how things were going to work. They poured my first glass of wine and was told that if I needed a refill to raise my hand. I was also to raise my hand if I needed to use the restroom or otherwise leave my seat. I was also told that if the waitstaff was bringing something to me that they would tap my right shoulder and that there was no silverware and all of the food would be eaten by hand. While I was waiting for the room to fill up, I was tapped on my right shoulder and a bread plate was brought to me. They did tap my shoulder but I smelled it when they put it down. It was very good bread. There was no butter or any type of spread but it did have a light sugar topping which was nice. I could tell that the room filled up because the room got pretty loud. It sounded as if there were several tables. The people sitting closest to me were not speaking English and sounded like they were speaking Urdu. This was probably the toughest part of the night. I could tell that there was a lot going on and people sounded excited but I couldn't understand what they were saying. This was very isolating and actually made it kind of difficult to keep my blindfold on. I left it on and dinner soon started. The host first came out and explained that the dinner was benefiting The Foundation for Retinal Research and the point of the evening was to give the diners a brief experience of blindness. The chef was then introduced and she told us that all of the food was local and/or organic and seasonal. She said that she would come out before every course to explain it and to hope that we enjoyed our dinners.
The first course was called the Amuse Bouche and consisted of a black olive clafoutis with an orange scallion slaw. I was actually kind of surprised that I liked this. It was slightly cakey and sweet but the flavor of the olive and the scallion came out and the orange provided a nice tartness to the dish. It was a good start to the meal.
The next course was the salad course although texturally, it was nothing like a salad. It was a carrot and parsley sorbet with a lemon confit served in a slightly bowled ginger cracker. The flavors for this were right on and I liked it as far as flavor was concerned. The texture on the other hand was another issue. The sorbet was soft and as soon as the cracker was bitten into, it was all over the place. We were warned to lean over our plates when eating it which I did but my hands still became very messy.
The first entree was a scallop course. We were provided two scallops and one slice of plantain that were fried in duck fat. There was an avocado and grapefruit sabayon and everything was garnished with a fried basil leaf. I liked all of the flavors of this dish as well although I will admit that it was a bit difficult to find the sabayon. Once I did find it, I ended up running my fingers through it and licking it off my fingers. I had visions of babyhood going through my head after doing this.
The second entree was probably one of the easiest dishes to eat. It consisted of house-made lamb sausage, cardamom-parsnip puree, and a thyme and lavender gelee wrapped in a crisp radicchio leaf. When I first bit into this, I got a sharp taste of bitter which I didn't like. Once I got to the sausage, it was fine but I have to guess that the gelee was the bitter part that I didn't like.
We finally arrived at dessert which almost sounded mainstream. There were two ricotta cheesecake pops drizzled with a peach-rose simple syrup and rolled in crushed pistachios. It was a nice finish to a very adventurous dinner.
When we finished, the host came out and told us that we could unmask ourselves which I did. The room that we were in was large with about 8 - 8 person tables spread throughout the room. As a finish, I will say that while there were elements of different dishes that I didn't care for, the service was excellent as was the experience. While I was told to raise my hand when I needed a refill with my wine or water, they always were there before I raised my hand and my finished plates were bussed without my noticing it. This event was a lot of fun and I would recommend anyone who has a love adventure to try it although I would also advise not to go alone.