Trust El Cerdo's Werner Kuhn to come up with two of Changkat Bukit Bintang's most eccentric experiments: a restaurant where customers eat while cloaked in total darkness & another where more than 100 tapas & cocktails are sold for only RM10++ each.
First, Dining In The Dark: thoughtfully crafted, multi-course mystery menus are served nightly (except Mondays) in a completely blackened hall by visually impaired wait staff whose calm, humor & concentration can put their sighted counterparts to shame.
The belief that visual deprivation instantly heightens other senses, including taste, is debatable, though customers will probably pay more attention to their food here, devoid of distractions like cellphones & cameras (those will be placed in personal lockers outside the dining chamber).
This nearly two-hour experience begins on a first-floor lounge with a friendly briefing. Customers then place their hands on a smooth-moving guide's shoulders or on those of their friends ahead of them, carefully walking single-file into a curtain-shrouded maze of amazement.
Pre-dinner sensory games: figure out which containers contain rice, beans & barley (shake 'em!) & fish out paperclips from a grain-filled package. Sip sangria & cranberry cocktails before braving the ultimate eclipse & taking stabs in the dark about what we're eating.
Spoiler alert: Potential customers who want to preserve the element of surprise, skip these next four paragraphs. Once seated, everyone is progressively presented with plates of unknown recipes. Forks & spoons are supplied, but we recommend using fingers to feel through the food, while music from The Corrs floats through the background.
Sure, it's not an original idea: there are dining-in-the-dark outlets in London, Paris, Hong Kong & elsewhere. But folks who suppress their cynicism will have fun eating in a room where they can't see their hands in front of them, much less their neighbors. Patrons with exhibitionist proclivities could disrobe & devour their entire meal au naturel.
Major spoiler alert: While the menu is expected to evolve, the current one features recipes whose basic components might be easy to deduce, from a prawn cocktail to a watermelon salad, chicken roulade with spinach to linguine with smoked duck, vanilla ice cream to panna cotta. But it's still mighty fun to sniff out the subtleties: who knew the salad contained feta cheese?
Final spoiler alert: After exiting, customers are shown photos of the food. Gimmicky or genius? Well, we paid RM88++ per person & enjoyed both the satisfyingly tasty, terrifically textured, hugely portioned food _ 11 items altogether _ & the overall experience. Recommended, though we hope the menu will eventually take more risks & become more challenging for customers.
Post-dinner coffee & tea are provided. Wine can be ordered for RM20++ per glass.
Be sure to also try the offerings at Ten On Changkat, which takes over from Werner's street-level Pisa, below Dining In The Dark. Changkat's happiest hours can be found here.
For RM10++ per plate, feast on fare that runs the gamut from chicken cannelloni to lamb satay.
Banana, chocolate & honey pizza. By the way, it's forgivable for now, but six of the items currently served at Dining In The Dark come from Ten On Changkat's menu.
Scores of highballs here cost RM10++ too, excellent considering they're pretty potent. Choose from the likes of the Mile High Ball (midori, kirschwasser, bitter lemon soda) & Dubonnet Highball (Dubonnet liquor, French vermouth, ginger ale).
Dining In The Dark (dinners daily except Mondays),