Friday, May 3, 2013

Blackout dinner/Nalaga'at ("Do touch")

Way back when Sam's parents were here, before his siblings arrived, we went to what's called a Blackout dinner.  It's run by a group of blind and vision-impaired people, and the idea is that you go eat dinner in complete darkness.  The experience is indescribable, but I'll do my best.  You have to give your order before you go in, and you have the option of picking something from the menu or getting the "surprise."  I think the surprise is to show how difficult it is to know what you're eating when you can't see it.

The servers are all blind or vision-impaired, so it's no more difficult than usual for them to navigate around the dining room.  To get to your table, your group holds on to each others' shoulders and the front person holds on to the server's shoulders.  Then she leads you to the table.  It's funny, because while I'm remembering our server, I am thinking of her voice, rather than what she looked like.  But there are no other people I think of that when when I think about them.  To sit down at the table, she puts your hand on the back of your chair.  It's still pretty difficult to sit down, even when you have your hand on the chair!

The servers are also all wearing bells on their wrists (I think?) so that they can hear each other when they're moving around.  Instead of waving to your waiter to get their attention, you call their name.  Sometimes that doesn't work though, if they're in the kitchen at the time.

So the first course came, which was an appetizer.  The food was amazing all the way through, but I don't have pictures of it for obvious reasons.  In fact, not only were you not allowed to bring your phone in unless it was completely off (not just vibrate) (and there were lockers outside if you wanted to use them), even the dim glow of a guy's watch at another table was bright enough to be extremely distracting.  The servers asked him to take it off, and after a few times of asking him, he finally did.  But the amount of darkness in the blackout dinner can not be overstated.  You can't see your hand an inch in front of your face.  There's no difference whether your eyes are open or closed.  You can do any weird-looking things you want and no one has any idea.  For example, it turned out that the best way to eat most of the foods was with our hands, because you can't find it with a fork.  Sam also said that he ended up putting his face like 4 inches away from his food to have an easier time getting it in his mouth.  Of course, we were also all wearing bibs, which is often a good idea but necessary when you can't see what you're doing!

Jerry ordered the surprise, and when she brought it our server asked him to taste it and tell her what he thought it was.  I can't remember what he guessed or what it actually was, but he was not even close!  I got a surprise drink and had the same thing happen to me!  It's really hard to tell what you're eating or drinking without being able to see it.

If you have to go to the bathroom during the meal, you have to ask your server to lead you out of the room so that you can get to the bathroom (which has the lights on, fortunately).  Also you have to make sure not to talk too loud while you're in the blackout room because you have only audio cues to communicate with your dining companions, and if the table next to you is shouting, it's hard to communicate.

This was definitely one of my top 5 experiences I've had while we've been on this trip.  Here we are before going in:

And in front of the counter where you order and pay and pick up and drop off your bibs:

If you ever find yourself in Tel Aviv, I would say that this is an experience not to be missed!  Highly highly recommended!

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