This new restaurant trend gives diners a thought-provoking way to savor food.

This new restaurant trend gives diners a thought-provoking way to savor food.

A fine meal provides a total sensory experience. Now imagine taking your sense of sight out of the equation. You'd have "dark dining," a concept that caught hold in Europe in the late 1990s and now is starting to become a trend stateside. Here's how it works: Diners are served in complete darkness. Servers lead them to a table and in some restaurants recite the menu so people can order, while in other restaurants diners choose their meal in advance. "Your eyes dictate what you're supposed to taste, [but in dark dining] you have to rely on the taste, texture and shape of the food," explains Benjamin Uphues, founder of three dark-dining restaurants, called Opaque, in California. (At Uphues's restaurants, the waitstaff is blind or visually impaired.)

Yet at about $100 per person, it's not an inexpensive night out, which left us wondering, for that price, could dark dining offer more benefits than meet the eye? We asked Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., R.D., obesity expert and author of The EatingWell Diet, to weigh in. "We're visually cued to finish what's on our plates; but there is evidence that beyond the first five mouthfuls of a dish you're eating just to finish it," explains Harvey-Berino. "So there is some reason to speculate that you might be more inclined to stop eating if you can't see the food."

Bottom line: It may not curb your appetite, but dining in the dark truly is a thought-provoking way to savor food.

November/December 2008