NOX - Making Darkness Delicious!
By Shefali Mital
A visit to ‘NOX’, the eatery in Singapore, made me understand something truly wonderful last week. The concept on which the restaurant operates is to make one feel the world of the blind and to know how the food is relished in the dark environs. NOX promises to give its guests a multi-sensory dining experience.
The first ‘dine in the dark’ concept was developed in France in 1997 for people to understand what the visually impaired go through while dining. It is also believed that dining in the dark heightens other senses so that we may fathom the food better.
As you get seated in their pitch dark dining room, you will be guided and served by a blind attendant who has been specially trained to provide food and beverage services to the guests. The culinary journey is much more than a dining experience; it is an emotional entry into a world capable of evoking feelings to which we, the sighted, are mostly ignorant.
However, in no way is there a compromise in the items placed on the menu. The restaurant offers a fine wines selection and an exquisite menu crafted by their Chef de Cuisine. The restaurant has two sections, the first of which is a posh lounge, which is well lit and offers a wide selection of premium wines, after which the guests can proceed to the dining room and enjoy their meals in the dark and take back a unique and unforgettable experience.
The décor at NOX is modern and minimalist and the seating is comfortable and ambience is cosy. The restaurant can accommodate up to sixty diners at a time. The restaurant is ideal for organising events and hosting lunches and indeed it lives up to one’s expectations of experiencing exclusive modern European cuisine extraordinaire.
As I sashaying into their 'dark' world, I realised that the blind must have been facing a hard time in terms of their need to rely upon servers and other people to understand the items on the food menu. This made me think that at a time when everyone is making the best use of technology, why should the blind be denied of this privilege?
The hospitality industry, to a large extent, has accommodated the needs of the differently abled members of the society. The contributions can be seen in terms of remodelling of restrooms for wheelchair access or redesigning of any lodging establishment for the convenience of the differently abled persons. However, a lot more can be done, life can be made more convenient, and they can achieve e independence they deserve.
The Braille Menu
Thinking on these lines, I thought of a braille menu in a Braille Ready Format(.brf) enabling the visually impaired guests to understand the menu items as well as place an order for them without the need to seek help from others. After researching a little on this subject, I learnt that some of the restaurants already provide such services to their visually impaired clients. Olive Garden, Applebee’s and The Cheesecake Factory are pioneers in providing Braille menus. Such services have not only been of great convenience to the blind but have also facilitated their empowerment. However, it saddens me to know that not many such initiatives have been taken by the Indian society and our country which is home to a large number of blind citizens must make use of this facility and give the opportunity to the visually impaired citizens to experience the same kind of independence and joy in dining.
Restaurants in India, must adopt the concept of the Braille menu, as it is of great relevance to them. It can help them in providing more efficient service as the need for servers to read out the menu will not be there, which will save them time and it will also help them in improving customer service. Another aspect that cannot be ignored is that it will help the restaurant increase its bottom line as having Braille menus will help fill in more seats which means more profit.
Whether we look at this from a social or an economical point of view, the relevance of a Braille menu cannot be undermined. The concern for the visually impaired, draws me to bring to the attention of the producers of various goods and services to make the labels of their foods items available in the Braille ready format, so that these people are prevented against the risk of fraudulent practices and can have an equal access to product information for everything which is available in the market.
Meanwhile, those planning a visit to Singapore will do well to note that during the multi-sensory gastronomy indulgence at the NOX restaurant – an array of aromatic mocktails to start with and in the main course the fine textured Tea Smoked Duck Leg, Slow Braise Kobe Short Ribs with Thyme and Caribbean Lobster Tail are a must have!