Dine in the Dark experience was truly one of a kind for me. How does it feel to eat in the dark? Is it worth the price? What kind of food can you expect there? What is the point of a restaurant with such concept? We visited the Phnom Penh branch in Cambodia and have all the answers ready for you!
The Concept of Dine in the Dark
The restaurant opened its doors in October 2013. The idea was to provide a unique culinary experience for guests, making them eat in complete darkness. I know what you’re thinking. How dark can it really be? You can’t even imagine!
While focusing on food, what this restaurant also really succeeds at is raising social awareness. When you experience the darkness for the first time, you’re being served by visually-impaired guides. Everyone carefully and thoroughly trained to keep customers safe and satisfied. We find on Dine in the Dark Facebook fanpage that all of the visually-impaired staff are current or past students of NGO Krousar Thmey, School for the Deaf and Blind.
What the restaurant manages to achieve is to really make their guests think. Make them realize how hard it is to do such simple thing as eating when you can’t see and show them how people who live like this can also work and be just like anybody else.
The Food in the Dark
While the social aspect of Dine in the Dark left me thinking for a long time afterwards, the food they serve is something I also need to tell you about.
No booking was necessary for the day we came in, because it was a quiet night. From what I have read online, though, the Bangkok branch of Dine in the Dark is often 100% fully booked. We would recommend to call the branch you want to visit to ask if you have to make a booking.
The staff welcomed us in a very friendly manner the second we showed up by the door. They invited us in and handed us the menus.
The menu at Dine in the Dark is quite straight forward. You can choose one of four available Surprise Set Menus – Khmer, International, Vegetarian and Chef’s Monthly Selection. Each of them consists of three courses and costs 18 USD. Set menus do not include any drinks, however your guide will most likely offer you complimentary water.
I will not go into detail as to what exactly we’ve been served after ordering International and Chef’s Monthly Selection. All I can say is that the food was absolutely delicious, fresh and worth the money. If you have any allergies or there are some foods or products you can’t eat, you can let your guide know upfront. They will make sure you’re not being served anything you don’t like.
I really appreciated this aspect of ordering food. As a picky eater there are things I’m not a big fan. Allowing me to point out I didn’t want something made me feel as if each set menu was made to order. To specific needs of every guest. And that really counts.
Will I get the food all over myself?
If my experience can be any indication, then no. I haven’t stained my clothes at all, so it’s a safe spot for a first date as well. Eating in the dark feels awkward at first, but quickly becomes an interesting and unique experience. If you’re careful, you shouldn’t get food or drinks all over yourself. Maybe all over the table – but it doesn’t matter, because you can’t see it anyway!
The Service is GOLD
Our guide was Honey and she was absolutely fantastic. She made sure we had everything we needed at all times during our meal. She was curious about our travels and videos and told us a lot about her life as well. I loved the fact that she spent quite a while at our table just chatting to us. It was really nice to hear about her life – her school, trainings and travels to Japan. I thought she was brilliantly socially aware. She always knew when to show up at the table and when to leave us alone. I was almost sad when we finished our meal and had to leave.
From what I’ve read online, most reviews express how amazing all staff is in Dine in the Dark. We briefly talked to the chef at the end of our meal and thanked everyone for a lovely evening. It was a great final touch that the staff comes with initiative to take photos of guests with their servers. They post the photos on their fanpage afterwards and it a great way to connect with people. I was really happy when I saw our photo together with Honey on their wall.
The Design and the Ambience
I usually like to say a few things about the interior design of restaurants I review, but in this case I’m quite limited. I am, though, really curious how the room where we sat during our meal actually looked like. Through the darkness, the room felt really cosy and quiet. I loved how in order to get there, we had to go up the stairs twice and through special double curtains.
I really liked the reception and the kitchen area downstairs. The purple ambience really works with the whole concept and branding. It creates a nice atmosphere and it makes Dine in the Dark a very good place for a non-conventional date.
A small seating area outside is helpful as well as it gave us a good spot to record a short video about Dine in the Dark straight after our experience.
Is Dine in the Dark experience for ME?
I think Dine in the Dark is a restaurant for people who like to experience new things. If you’ve never done it and are curious, just go for it. The food is fantastic, the staff is absolutely awesome and the whole concept is honestly a really great idea to have a good business, but also to spread important social awareness and give employment to visually-impaired people. It is more expensive than other restaurants or street food in Cambodia or in Thailand, but it’s a fair price for what you get. And it’s for good purpose as well.
Next time I’m in Phnom Penh, I’m definitely visiting Dine in the Dark again. That should be the best recommendation I can give you. And next time I’m in Bangkok, I want to give those guys a try as well.
You can also watch our video from Dine in the Dark Experience.
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