"Oh-ha!" "Excuse me...Oops!" "Sorry!" "Oh...What?" "Ouch!" "Ummm...who-what? Oh! Yes!" This is what the first few moments of your pitch-black experience at Black Out might sound like as you enter a world of utter darkness.
Not the Typical Culinary Establishment
Black Out is a restaurant, and their fare rather excellent. However, the main attraction here certainly surpasses the focus on food. Come to Black Out to be challenged and to learn about yourself, and about a world you probably never had a glimpse of or wondered of... Black Out is an all-around experience, so save room!
For the Adventurous Only
Once you've entered the world of blindness and surrendered to the ultimate return to helpless babyhood, it seems. No joke, at Black Out you will visit a physical state that is directly influenced by absolute darkness and the consequential removal of your key sense-eyesight.*
*WARNING: If you're a control freak, a picky eater, or stricken by any level of anxiety, undertaking this experiment may lead to unforeseeable circumstances which the staff may not be held responsible for (i.e.: mild panick attack).
Let Us Begin
To avoid stumbling on my words, missing out on details or keeping you in the dark, allow me to attempt to recall my Black Out experience as a step-by-step adventure. Feel free to back-track at any moment.
One. Step into the building. Black Out, as well as Nalaga'at Theatre and Capish Café, are all located in one big, white and brightly lit building in the Jaffa port. Reception and three beautiful dogs for the blind will warmly greet you upon entrance and assure a sweet beginning to the very complex evening before you.
Two. Sit and wait. I imagine that a part of being Deaf-Blind entails the development of patience and tolerance beyond what we fast-paced society members are used to. So, sit, and wait. Shortly someone will be with you to explain what's what.
Three. Receive verbal guidance as to how the evening proceeds. A very kind and informative animator will stand before you and the rest of the eager reservation-makers and give instructions as to how this dark mystery will pan out. A miniature menu will be handed out and ample time given to choose a main course and desert prior to entering...the darkness...
Four. Ask, choose, wait some more. The menu at Black Out is small but attractive. The meal choices include two fish dishes and two vegetarian dairy options. There is also a "mystery" pick for ultra-brave guests, which can be molded to fit any specific food preferences or dislikes you may have.
Desserts follow the same trend-pick from a short list of pre-written sweets or choose to be surprised at the end of your meal. Feel free to ask any number of questions, as the staff here is kind and patient, and certainly used to the constant flow of curious crowds that dare to attend such a blackened event.
Five. Get ready to enter the darkness. Yes, prepare yourself both mentally and physically, for, once you've stepped in to the restaurant bit of this adventure, you are reduced to a floating mass of invisibility...nothing left to show you the way (but your super-duper waiter, of course). Strap on a bib and get in line...this is going to get messy...maybe.
Six. Enter. I won't pretend to have been completely without fear when my partner and I were finally summoned to make our entrance. My heart skipped a beat and I got rather giddy. We entered the "lobby" area of the sectioned-in restaurant and were instructed to hold onto each other's shoulders in a single file. I held on to our waitress, Lea, a blind woman who would be our wonderful guide and server for the evening, and opened my eyes to the unrelenting pitch black.
Seven. Stumble and squirm. Sit and Breathe. Literally-don't strain your eyes too much while being guided to your seat, for there's no chance in the world you will be able to make something out. The darkness at Black Out is not something your eyes can adjust to. No. It's absolute darkness from beginning to end with no exception whatsoever. So, suffer a few ouches and oopsies until you arrive at your table (phew), and say thanks to the comforts of service and chairs.
The Dark Supper
Eight. Eat bread. The first activity you will happily undertake once seated is the consumption of scrumptious, pre-buttered bread. Steaming hot and in a personal basket, there's nothing more comforting to keep you busy in the dark. (Oh, this is after you've decided to bravely attempt pouring yourself and the rest of the table residents water and actually got most of it on your lap...hm, yes.)
Nine. Wonder at the black black black. And eat. After you've laughed and possibly freaked out a bit, perhaps called on your lovely waitress to ask some silly question and decided that patience is a virtue that you should make a project out of developing for yourself from today on, your food will arrive.
My table (comprised of my friend and I and another friendly couple who added to the mystery and enjoyment of this truely blind date) was mesmerized by Lea's abilities at telling what meal went to whom. In retrospect, I'm less impressed-Lea is blind and always has been!
Of course it's not rocket science for her to go on with the natural state of affairs she's used to and serve us comme d'habitude! Our blindness must have gone to our heads. The meals were placed before us and our amusement grew.
At first, I tried to use my fork and knife to dissect my Drumfish (all fish are filets served boneless, worry not!) and shovel in its side of quinoa pilaf. Shortly, I gave up on manners and went for the kill cave-man style. My dining companion did the same with her salmon and sweet potatoes. Take it from me, use your hands and indulge in the wonderful gift of not seeing and not being seen. It's a little taste of freedom and loads of fun!
Ten. Go with the flow (but don't move from your seat unless you want someone to get hurt). After food, comes more food, of course. Ain't no meal without it's sugary counterpart. For this part, cutlery may be easier to maneuver. I had no problem using my dessert spoon to collect every last bit of my fantastic chocolate mousse, none at all.
Eleven. Time to move on with the show! After all food has been ingested, liquids accidentally poured over someone (or yourself) and assurance gained that there is no chance at all that anything may become visible for even a moment, the time to get up and move on to the next part of this experiment is inevitable.
Personally, I felt a sudden urge to break free from the darkness and run off into the invisible light, but, I retained my grand desires and politely awaited Lea, who then returned us to the world of vision in the same single-filed arrangement we came in by. Once returned to the world of sight, I was shocked yet relieved, and yet, a little sad...I realized how easily we take our vision for granted, how plain to sight our ability to see is!
After dinner, get ready to watch something that could easily change your perspective on...life. It's difficult to express, as the power of performance and the effect of human conditions upon us is completely individual, but I can at least say that I was completely moved by the play that followed an already powerful dinner experience.
Nalaga'at (which means DO TOUCH) Theatre is a troupe that consists of eleven deaf-blind actors who also suffer from something called Usher syndrome. This brave cast of sightless adults has put together a performance so altogether touching that I was moved to tears not once.
The play lasts approximately one hour and gives you a personal glimpse onto the worlds of these individuals. It's quite amazing to see them in action, especially taking into consideration that they can neither see nor hear, and that the entirety of their performance is successfully held together by their attentiveness and much hard work and determination.
The audience is witness to the very interesting modes of communication that the players have built to maintain their very strong and successful co-existence. The piece, in which the making of bread is a theme that carries through continuously, is...beautiful.
Be Touched and Go On Touching
If you're looking for an evening that will mark you (both taste buds and heart), you've found a gem in Black Out and Nalaga'at. Hands down (well, up actually, for you will definitely need them in the dark!), this is an experience that is not a daily come-by, and worth every scratch and fall (if you're as clumsy as I!) you may be served alongside it.
Meal: bread basket + main course + dessert: 90 NIS
Ticket for the Performance: 100 NIS