Jantar no escuro (Dinner in the dark) is a regular event for a small group of intrepid diners in which pyschologists Maria and Elis devise a themed menu, eaten with blindfolds on.
The next dinner in the dark will be hosted on 5 February at restaurant Otto (Rua Pedro Taques 129, Consoloção, 3231 5330, ottobistrot.com.br) with a seafood menu inspired by African mother-goddess Iemanjá, prevalent in much of Brazil’s folklore and religious tradition, and commemorated each year on 2 February.
To make a reservation, you'll need to be able to make a bank deposit (see event details below).
‘Not too tight?’ asks Elis, one of two psychologists who run Jantar No Escuro (Dinner In The Dark) as she adjusts the blindfold. ‘OK, just place your hand on my shoulder.’ And in I go. ‘Here’s the chair,’ she points out as I fumble around to get myself seated. Where am I? Who am I with? The first sensations, in the pitch dark, are of pure disorientation.
The evening starts to unfold around me: a bell rings, incense wafts, a drink is poured with a glug-glug-glug. My fingers locate the glass without knocking it over. ‘Your first course is served,’ whispers a voice.
My fingers feel on the plate (no need for knives and fork) what is clearly rice, but what’s that hard roundish thing? A tomato? An olive? Suddenly, dinner becomes a wonder of discovery, of smell, touch and taste. Soft voices whisper to each other in the darkness, swapping guesses. A hint of basil? Aubergine?
More courses are served to the sound of an accordion and a double bass, though it’s hard to tell if the music is live or recorded. Another mouthful of surprises – the taste and texture of shimeji is unmistakable, but what’s that intensely flavoured meat? Dessert hits us before it’s even been set down on the table, as a terrific sweet chocolatey smell fills the room.
After about an hour in the dark, we are welcomed to remove our blindfolds and the room we had imagined is brought into visual reality. People blink disbelieving at each other, smiling, enchanted – and desperate to know just what it was we’ve just had for dinner.
Escorted back into the lobby – this time without the help of guiding hand – psychologists Elis and Maria present each dish we’ve just eaten, in exactly the way they were served. The 30-odd diners peer at, and examine, the dishes like biologists looking at a petri dish.
Each month, the dinner has a different theme, and sometimes a different host restaurant – we had just enjoyed an Italian themed dinner at Consagrado restaurant in Itaim Bibi. Jantar No Escuro is a true sensorial experience, brilliantly executed and highly recommended.