Dinner in pitch-black NOX – Dine In The Dark – newly relocated along Club Street – can be illuminating for the mind and soul.
Dinner at NOX – Dine In The Dark is unsettling. Discomfiting even.
If you aren’t familiar with NOX, it is one of the first alternative experiential dining concepts to open in Singapore. The idea here is that you dine in total darkness, forcing you to rely wholly on your remaining four senses to get through your dinner.
NOX – Dine In The Dark first opened in 2014 in a shophouse space along Beach Road, but recently relocated to Club Street due to challenges in renewing the lease at its original location. It was at Beach Road I first encountered the NOX experience.
I visited NOX at its new and swankier venue on Club Street, and came away as disconcerted as the first time.
The evening started out well enough. Cocktails on the first floor, a fully-stocked cocktail bar helmed by Sam Wong of the Ah Sam Cold Drinks Stall fame. There’s Breakfast For Champions, a clarified whiskey sour on steroids, a very whimsical and pretty Please Burst My Bubbles, a gin sour. I enjoyed the Not A Frozen Margarita, an elegant take on the Margarita that comes with an iced sphere.
But it’s the Espresso Martini twist that’s the Big Boy’s Latte – a concoction of coffee-infused whisky, Campari, Kahlua and cream – you want to help retain your senses for the rest of the evening.
When we’re done with our drinks, our party is then led to the upstairs dining room. Here’s where everything is done in utter darkness. Visually-impaired hosts guide each one of us to our seat.
You become aware of how difficult everything becomes when you can’t use your sight. I smash my fingers against the wall I didn’t know was there. Orientating myself on my table – fork, spoon, water glass (no table knife, because) – took almost a minute.
The only light present in the dining room are the red rings from the CCTV cameras glowing balefully back at you. Not bright enough to illuminate anything, except to mock you.
You triangulate the location of fellow diners by their voices, and the noise they’re making. Yet you feel utterly, completely alone in your cocoon of darkness.
The dishes arrive. There are three courses. Each course comes as four distinctly different dishes. You’re supposed to guess what you’re eating based on their smell, texture, and flavour – and remember them, because, you’re told on the way up, that you need to fill out a questionnaire at the end.
You quickly find that it’s a lot harder than one expects. One dish – braised lamb shank – I guessed correctly, but most of my fellow diners called it beef stew, and one even said it was pulled pork.
It’s the same with cocktails. I pride myself as a cocktail connoisseur, but it’s shockingly difficult when you can’t eyeball your drink. A Kentucky Lemonade I called a whisky highball, the Negroni Sbagliato I named an Aperol Spritz, while something I thought was a Rum Old Fashioned turned out to be a Godfather.
By the end, I’ve only gotten barely half my answers correct.
Yet that’s not the most uncomfortable part. That comes when your visually-impaired host – each of them the very paragon of service – shares their life story. Of how they’ve lost their sight, and how they try to cope. They are absolutely inspirational, and heroes in their own right.
And when you finally step back out into the light after your meal, you realise how incredibly privileged you are to still have full faculty of your senses.
Will I recommend NOX – Dine In The Dark? Absolutely. Do this at least once in your life. You may not remember the food, but you’ll come away with a revelation. That in utter darkness, those with hope do see the light.
Tasting menus at NOX – Dine In The Dark are priced from $88++. Wine flights begin from $30++ and cocktail flights from $50++.
NOX – Dine In The Dark
Address 83 Club St, Singapore 069451 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6pm till late on Tuesdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays
Tel (65) 6298 0708