From Our Editors
You step into the windowless waiting area, a preserved classic lounge. You order your dishes, and find your server—who you soon discover is blind. He'll ask you to place your hand on his shoulder, and you follow him into the dimming light until everything goes black.
O.Noir is perhaps one of the only restaurants where you wouldn't notice a power failure. The dining space is kept in total darkness so that diners ignore the appearance of their food and instead grow attuned to its subtle tastes and textures. And yet this dining experience also serves another purpose—to help you get a taste of what it's like to live without sight.
- Service staff, all of whom are blind, guide diners through the experience
- Diners are encouraged to eat however they choose—whether with hands or utensils
- To maintain total darkness, cellphones and lighters are prohibited in the dining room
Who They Are
When blind pastor Jorge Spielmann invited guests to dinner at his Zurich home, he would blindfold them—letting them share his dining experience and introducing them to his sightless world. In 1999, he turned this unique custom into a full-scale experiment with Blind Cow, a combination restaurant and social-justice project that provides jobs to the blind and teaches others about the world of the visually impaired. Over the next decade, his idea sparked a new culinary trend on an international scale.
Moe Alameddine brought the sightless dining concept to Canada when he opened the first O.Noir in 2006 in Montreal and then a second one in Toronto in 2009. In 2011, the restaurant was transferred to a new owner, chemical-engineer-turned-entrepreneur Dr. J. R. Feng, who further transformed the rooms of a dark basement and former retro bar into a sensory dining venue. O.Noir Toronto has since partnered with Canadian National Institute for the Blind and other community organizations to provide the visually impaired with mainstream job skills.