CITY GUIDE >Food Reviews
Dine in dark
By Johannes Van Der Tuin (bestfoodinchina.net)
Updated: 2008-09-19 16:22

If you like things that go bump in the night…?

In many ways, the Whale Inside Dark restaurant, conveniently located at Jian Wai SOHO, defies the traditional measures by which one would rate a restaurant. For example, in terms of décor and food presentation, I am completely in the dark, and that is because patrons of Whale Inside Dark dine in complete darkness.

Upon arrival my dinner partner and I were shown to the bar. After having selected from a menu of prix fixe options, we left our valuables in a storage locker and were led through two curtains and into the pitch.

Now for a quick word on dining in the dark: The first dark restaurant was opened in Zurich for the purpose of providing ‘employment for the blind’ as wait staff. At Whale Inside Dark no such pretense exists. The servers are fully sighted, university aged, and wearing night vision goggles.

The second idea behind the dining in the dark experience is that denying one’s sight will heighten the other senses. Personally, I was more keenly aware of my sense of touch. However, this can probably be attributed to the fact that I have never had to put on plastic gloves and grope around a table in pursuit of meat.

Typical restaurant reviews focus on food, though here that has not been the case, because quite frankly, the food is quite forgettable. The menu is a grab bag of cooking styles crammed into a collection of set meals; a handful of individual set meals and four prix fixes designed for couples. I chose the Prawns in Bean Sauce, Australian Beef Soft Ribs, Mushroom Chicken Soup, Refreshing Fish Soup, Happy Assorted Fried Rice, Papaya and Birds Nest Sweet Water, and a Fruit Salad. The prawns were fine and the papaya in sweet water was pleasant, but the beef soft ribs were fatty, far too tenderized, and in a mediocre black pepper sauce. The rest of the meal is hardly worth mentioning.

Of course, the main reason to go to Whale Inside Dark is not the food, but the experience of eating without seeing, and here the restaurant succeeds. If you are the type of person who thinks dining in the dark sounds like an entertaining evening and might help you ‘lower your inhibitions,’ then Whale Inside Dark could be a great time. The staff is friendly and, if given advance notice, willing to help you come up with the perfect idea for a special night out, a birthday, or even a place to pop The Question. Past arrangements have included a violinist, fireworks, and even a tap dancer. However, if you are just looking for an outstanding meal at 200 Yuan per couple, look elsewhere.

Whale Inside Dark
Location: 3rd Floor, Room 1037, Jian Wai SOHO West, 39 Dong San Huan Centr
Tel: 010-59000343

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