They say there are some things in life you just need to experience, like skydiving, the Great Wall, the world's tallest tower and those other frivolous things you need to "see" before you die. Well, add going to the Black Cafe
to that list. No it's not just a coffee shop ... it's a once in a lifetime dining experience that allows you to live in a blind person's shoes in the most ultimate way.
Black Cafe offers two dining experiences, the Dark Zone and the Visual Zone. The Visual Zone on the main floor is the equivalent of a chic bar. It has dim lights with a sleek black interior and around 22 places to sit on swanky couches and on funky stools around a lit bar. You can order from the a la carte menu in this area or just grab a drink while you wait to be seated in the actual dining room. I recommend the Seafood Spaghetti for 78rmb, Onion Soup for 28rmb or the Cheesecake for 35rmb. Drinks are reasonably priced: Cafe latte, Budweiser, specialty Teas and Coke (from 12rmb to 30rmb). However, keep in mind that you cannot bring anything upstairs to the actual dining area.
The Dark Zone is designed after the Dans le noir in Paris. The entire dining experience is in pitch black. Before you head up the stairs to the dining room, you are shown lockers where you can store your belongings, which may seem weird at first but it'll make sense in the end.
According to one of the owners named Kent: "You'll make a mess and you'll thank me for storing everything after." So, thanks Kent. You have the choice of three set meals, each with mashed potatoes, vegetables and a choice of soup or salad and dessert; Set A: Chicken Breast (168rmb), Set B: Rib-eye steak (198rmb) or Set C: Cod Fish (238rmb). When upstairs, you will be led into the dining room by a blind waiter or waitress into complete darkness. You will be assisted to a table where you simply have to feel your way around for your drink, utensils and bread. When the meal comes, you're on your own. My attempt at using cutlery went terribly and out of frustration I switched it up to a Medieval Times type of deal and used my hands. The chicken breast was very scrumptious and so was the buttery mashed potatoes. I wanted to try the steak but unfortunately, my friend and I couldn't coordinate a swap in the dark. But she said it's one of the best steaks she's had in Shanghai... so it's a go.
The concept of this restaurant according to the owners is so that everyone can experience what it's like to not see for once in their lives, and to experience the difference in how food is eaten and how food tastes when you can't actually see it. Though it may come across as gimmicky, it truly is a well thought-out idea to expand ones mind into a realm they have never experienced before. This truly is a once in a lifetime experience you wont forget... so call ahead and make a reservation because space is limited.
Black Cafe, 65 Maoming Bei Lu - pictures, map, taxi-printout
Editor's Note (Feb 2009)
: Black Cafe has been turned into a normal restaurant and no longer offers the dark dining experience.