A DEDICATION TO CRAFTMANSHIP
NOX – Dine in the Dark is a revolutionary multi-sensory dining experience that switches the lights off, to switch your senses on.
For many of us, our sight is our most dominant sense. In fact, it is so prominent that sometimes it actually overrides our four other senses. For example, when it comes to food, some of us decide if we fancy a dish or not by simply judging it on its appearance. What’s more, multiple studies have proven that a dish’s presentation can enhance or diminish its overall taste, thanks to our minds making these visual judgements. But shouldn’t we decide if we like a certain food by considering its taste, its smell and its texture equally, without being swayed by the dominating sense of sight? Well, that’s where NOX – Dine in the Dark steps in.
Turning out the lights, NOX invites its guests to dine in the dark, temporarily surrendering the dominant sense of sight in order to enhance the other four senses. It is a multi-sensory dining experience that opens your mind and focusses your taste buds, plunging you into an intriguing new world of mystery and sensation through taste, smell, touch and sound, in total darkness. The meal showcases a three-course innovative prix fixe menu of Modern European cuisine crafted by Chef de Cuisine Desmond Lee. Each course consists of four small dishes, with each one specifically curated to challenge and tease guests’ senses with a variety of flavours, textures and aromas.
NOX is the first restaurant of its kind in Singapore, so it is no surprise that the Singapore foodie scene has welcomed this new revolutionary way of dining since opening in August. It is an immensely successful and long awaited concept from Europe and the US, encouraging diners to reawaken their senses and reevaluate the world around them.
Into the Darkness
The experience begins in NOX’s spacious lounge bar where signature surprise cocktails are served alongside other fine beverages. A favourite amongst NOX enthusiasts is “A Touch of Rose” with its refreshing blend of cucumber, rose water, gin and citrus – the perfect way to cleanse the palate before the explosion of flavours that are soon to follow. An amuse bouche is intentionally served in the light of the lounge, providing a real glimpse of the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine and the quality of food to look forward to.
Dinnertime strikes and a team of blind and visually impaired servers enter the lounge bar. It might seem rather ironic, but at NOX, the blind will be leading those with sight, acting as their guides as well as their servers. This actually makes perfect sense if you consider the environment we are about to enter, seeing as the servers have already mastered the ability to find their way around without the advantages of vision.
And so, with roles reversed, the blind servers become our eyes and lead us into the pitch-black dining room where we await the 3-course mystery dinner. Not a single form of light is allowed into the dining room to ensure nothing is visible, immediately awakening the four ‘deprived’ senses. Hushed giggles emerge from excited guests as forks and spoons are clumsily located and glasses of water and signature cocktails are secured. The servers reassure guests with soothing and calm instructions, comforting any unease or awkwardness to the peculiar feeling of submitting to complete blindness.
Once familiarised with the environment, the culinary experiment begins with a “Debut Magnifique” – four appetisers that play on temperatures, texture and a spectrum of flavours. The challenge of eating without the use of vision suddenly becomes a reality, but luckily, each dish is presented in a way that allows guests to dine with ease. For example, one of the dishes is a ‘Cold Wakame Pasta with Seared Scallop and Truffle Oil’ which sounds tricky to manoeuvre even if the lights were on. However, the succulent scallops are served bite sized morsels and set amongst a neat ball of pasta dressed with an indulgent sauce. With no way of seeing the dish, the aromas of ocean sweetness and a hint of earthiness are almost overwhelming; the smell of each ingredient seems heightened, more distinct than normal, livening the taste buds and making them more alert than ever before.
Each course is specifically designed to challenge the palate by showcasing contrasting flavours, aromas and textures. Is it lamb or is it beef? Poached peach or poached pear? Every bite makes you question, explore and re-think what you are tasting. Every flavour is intensified. A tomato is more than just a tomato – its flavours seem to be clearer, describable and more precise than normal. It’s more complex than simply “tomatoey” – it is sweet, it is tangy, it is smooth and meaty. I can even hear and feel the burst as the delicate skin splits and explodes with a juicy piquancy.
The darkness also minimises the normal distractions you have at a dining table – distractions you don’t normally pick up on. If you can’t see the other ingredients on your plate, then you’re not thinking about the next bite. If you can’t see the other guests and their food, you can’t experience the dreaded ‘food envy’. Instead, your own palate is focussed solely on the flavours that you can taste at that exact moment, making every bite and every flavour the pivotal subject of your awareness.
The menu is continually changing to ensure that guests are always treated to an element of surprise, but look out for (excuse the pun) Chef de Cuisine Desmond Lee’s crispy duck leg confit with chargrilled pineapple and a black pepper sauce. It is a true feast for the senses; a playground of flavours and a symphony of aromatics and textures. As for the sweet stuff, Chef Lee’s desserts are aptly named “Heavenly Indulgence” including his signature mixed berry Champagne with vanilla panna cotta – a tantalising end to a sensational meal.
With senses enlightened and palates totally satisfied, the dining experience concludes once the guests return to the well-lit lounge bar. Here, a fun quiz is held to predict the mystery food that was just enjoyed. Guests are asked to guess the dishes of each course and the flavours involved, before being shown pictures of the innovative cuisine. The quiz is a great way to round off the meal and to highlight the realisation that when our eyes are not involved, our remaining senses are in overdrive. It shows that NOX – Dine in the Dark is more than just a dinner; it is a unique and mind-altering experience that will reshape and reignite your perception of food and the power of the senses.
A TOUCH OF ROSE
TO PREPARE (SEVES 1):
• 1/4 cucumber, cut into quarters
• 1 thin slice of cucumber, sliced lengthways (for garnish)
• 30ml of gin
• 30ml of sugar syrup
• 15ml of lemon juice
• 15ml of lime juice
• 15ml of egg white
• 1 teaspoon of rose water
1. Using a muddler, muddle the quarters of cucumber in a cocktail shaker until they are crushed to a pulp.
2. Add the gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, rose water and enough ice to fill the shaker to the brim.
3. Close the lid of the cocktail shaker and shake well until fully incorporated.
4. For the garnish, lay the thin slice of cucumber around the inner walls of the glass.
5. Strain the cocktail from the shaker into the glass.
6. Top the glass up with ice and serve.