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Restaurants in the dark

November 9, 2010 |  8:00 am

I can see in the dark like a cat, so even when a restaurant is quite dim I can usually make out the menu. But then I’m odd that way. My friends who come with me usually end up trying to hold a candle up to the menu, moving it slowly up and down in order to see each item. Occasionally some well-prepared person has one of those clever little lights that hang on a key chain, which are very useful when the battery isn’t run down.  Often I have to ask for several candles in order to even see the food on the table well.

Blog-dark cat What’s with restaurants so dark you can barely find the food?

It’s not necessarily romance, that’s for sure. It’s about atmosphere, about exclusivity, and privacy. If the place has any pretensions to being a celebrity haunt, the management wants it dark enough that you won’t be able to spot Katherine Heigl or George Clooney across the room all that easily.

Bastide, at least, used to provide a book light for reading the wine list when you were seated in the garden. But other restaurants may not even own a flashlight. I’ve actually had guests get up and go out into the street or over to the hostess desk in order to read the wine list. How convenient is that?

What about the  poor chef who has teased and primped his or her dishes into loveliness, but all that work can’t really be appreciated because the dining room is so dim?   Visuals are a huge part of the pleasure of eating, and when you can’t tell that those heirloom tomatoes are green or yellow streaked with crimson, then what?

It’s funny considering that most kitchens are as bright white as operating theaters, but the food ends up being enjoyed — or not — in the near-dark.

— S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: William Jordan