Dwindling Light at Opaque
Hall and Oates' Private Eyes played in the foreground while a crowd upstairs sang Happy Birthday. The layering of songs stood out because we were 30 minutes into our multi-course meal in complete darkness. We grabbed a rare date night to a “destination” (I was convinced it would be over-rated) we’d heard about: Opaque in San Francisco. The restaurant shares a kitchen with Indigo--the restaurant upstairs where the birthday was happening. Clinking and clanking of light drenched diners upstairs, plus the hum of their conversation passes right on down. After feeling your way through the courses of a meal, you also become aware of how quietly you can eat; the darkness slows you down and you become deliberate in an effort to be neat (that’s the party line in your head).
Opaque taglines itself as "a journey of taste," but I'd say it's a journey of everything sensory, except sight. The food is good (not outstanding) but it’s much more of background to other parts of the experience you have there in the dark. Being deprived of my sense of sight (mostly) was a lot of fun because I love music (heard, made, or both). It's nice to do away with the visual for a change because our lives (heck, this!) are so dominated by visual stimuli as the primary way we absorb information. At Opaque, all your other senses get to take center stage!
You Enter a Very Dark Room and Sitting There in the Gloom is...You
The evening begins with a wait in a dimly light hallway where you get to choose your menu or choose which parts of it you'd like to be "a mystery." Yep, fire up that sniffer for some fun testing the collaboration between your nose and tongue. You get introduced to your sight-impaired waitperson and from there on, everything else happens in complete darkness. You enter the room with your hands on your friend or sweetheart's shoulders and you are lead to your table--all in the dark (it was leather I'm pretty sure). That’s where the restaurant imagination kicks in! What would it be like to have stories like those in Waiterrant be shared by one of the sight-impaired staff? These folks have probably heard it all!
Touch or Starve
It's a great exercise in trust to get to interact with your server by touch and voice. If you have any hang-ups about trusting our touching people you can barely see or don’t know, Opaque throws you and your shit almost entirely to the dogs (I say almost because you do meet your server briefly in the light). I really enjoyed have to touch our server, (Mocha rocks!) to get fed, transfer plates and be guided along to what was happening on the table. Mocha was patient, kind, upbeat and she indulged our curious questions and seemed to smile at our, well, my--singing. For a deeply in-the-closet singer, nothing is richer than the fertile darkness and a playlist that I can just whip out a fun harmony right alongside.
But Wait, a Light?!!About ¾ of the way through our meal we saw a light! A spark. The napkin. Napkins on clothing make static electricity! Can you believe I couldn’t find a good image of this anywhere on the web? I’m kidding. It was really kind of cool to have little lightning storms we could conjure up ourselves. A game! A rule—broken! Kind of a rush…for a few seconds. But after that dies down, you go back to fondle your silverware, glasses, second cocktail, remaining main course, and more. Stretch goal is trying to feed each other- anyone for a gentle grope up the arm?
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Sounds were my favorite part of Opaque. The playlist they had going sort of stuck to what I assumed was the theme: darkness. But they also played some less directly associated songs I love: Aretha's Spanish Harlem, the Mamas and the Papas. To what I heard (should their staff be reading), I would add the following songs about darkness:
• Building a Mystery, Sarah McLachlan
• Dancing in the Dark, Bruce Springsteen
• Enter Sandman, Metallica (yeah, given the vibe an acoustic or pianified version by Vitamin String Quartet or a group like that would be best)
• The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel
Opaque is fun experience I’d recommend every other year just to see if they take the concept further in any way (maybe add in some performance art of some kind). In theory, the price point is hefty enough that returning so infrequently should make follow up visits all the more tasty. It would be a fun place to propose marriage (feel the ring) or enjoy a private group event (the more singers the better). Maybe for my next visit, I’ll pair dinner with a late afternoon visit to Oakland Floats.