A couple of years ago when my friend, Priya, and I were planning our trip to Prague and Berlin, she mentioned we should try to check out a “dark restaurant.” It was the first I had ever heard of its kind. These pitch-black restaurants (many with a blind wait staff) were a completely different approach to dining. I read more about them recently: “The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.”
Dans le Noir
And similar restaurants began popping up around the world. Unfortunately, Priyers and I didn’t get a chance to check one out in Germany as planned in our short trip, but we always talked about how we wished we had. That’s why when Dans le Noir? opened in NYC, we were psyched to check it out together. The chain (which means “In the Dark?” in French), first opened in Paris in 2004, and grew to be so popular, it opened up more branches in London, St. Petersburg, Barcelona, and now NYC. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the restaurant, but I was hoping it would do the experience justice to what I pictured in my head…it went even beyond that
The first order of business is picking from four genres of pri-fixe menus: Vegetarian, Meat, Seafood, or Chef’s Surprise (which is a variation of all three menus). This is also the time you tell them about any food allergies and restrictions so they can make necessary adjustments. Since you’re dining in the dark and not supposed to know what you’re eating, they don’t tell you exactly what you’re getting in your three-course meal. Next, you sign a waiver which basically says you understand you’ll be in total darkness and seated by others you might not know, and they’re not liable for any injuries you incur as a result (I know, scary).
Priya signing the waiver
By Sabrina Enayatulla
On an early Sunday afternoon the wait for brunch at The Bluebell Cafe in Gramercy is literally spilling onto the sidewalk. Of course a busy restaurant is always a good sign, but on a weekend with afternoon plans already in place, the Best Friend and I decided to reschedule. Since Bluebell serves breakfast (the meal with our most favorite food choices!) until 11 a.m. during the week, we returned to enjoy the French cuisine fused with traditional American home-style cooking the following day, Monday morning.
The Bluebell Cafe
Bluebell can be best described as a place that’s reminiscent of a relative’s house where you might go for Thanksgiving. It’s warm and cozy and has the feel of being a favorite local small town drop-in. For breakfast we ordered to share: over-easy eggs, buttermilk biscuits, wheat toast, buttermilk pancakes and blueberry pancakes served with maple syrup and dusted with powdered sugar, and Brioche French toast served with berry compote and lemon curd.
I can be a bit indecisive at times so I almost always ask to mix up the offerings on restaurant menus because I want a little bit of everything. At Bluebell, this started as soon as I saw the pancake menu. Like that pack of butterfly-and-hearts covered cotton undies that your mom left on your bed after a Kmart run back in the ’90s, the pancakes at Bluebell come in a set of three. Problem was, I had to choose between buttermilk and the day’s special: blueberry.
Our family dinners are always kind of…a mess. Let me explain: try to get a group of 10 or so of the cousins to a specific place (in this case, Almond) at a specific time (7:15 PM), and the ones who do make it at the right place will do so at the wrong time (a very generous window between 7 and 9:30 PM). If you can imagine, making reservations is not the easiest of tasks. But cousin-Safia bravely took on that challenge and picked the restaurant where a couple of us have dined often enough to know that A) the food would be delicious; and B) the staff knows some of us personally to be understanding about our inability to be punctual. What ensued was exactly what was expected — everyone was late, and the food was great.
Brussels Sprouts Two Ways
The appetizers are the easiest way to ruin your dinner here. Well, this is basically how I ruined my dinner: eating so much of them, I didn’t even end up ordering an entree. I ended up taking cousin-Heba’s recommendations which did not fail (she’s one of the said regulars here!). Take their “Brussels Sprouts Two Ways”…heaven. Grilled to perfection over a bed of light caesar salad with parmesan. I actually ordered two of these…and finished two of these. I guess that would count as my dinner?
Cheese fries. That is dangerous enough on its own until you get a choice of garlic, saffron, and ranch (I think the third one was ranch) dipping sauces:
Faraz's Orangina-slash-contribution to my Buena Vista post
My trip to Miami a few weeks ago was a whirlwind, but I still managed to squeeze in brunch at Buena Vista Bistro before I left with my friends Shahla and Faraz. I think Paris was still on their minds (they came back from there just the evening before!), because Buena is a pocket-sized French bistro on a street that doesn’t have much else in the immediate vicinity.
Buena Vista Bistro - Miami
Buena Vista inside
The inside has a very 50s aesthetic — black tables and chairs, mirrors making up half the wall and the entire menu written on a chalkboard behind the counter. But on that warm day, we decided to take it outside under the shade of bright yellow umbrellas.
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posted on: 06.06.11 | filed under: American, Dessert, FOOD - "The Delicious", French, Travel Feasts
| tags: angelina's, breakfast, Breakfast/Brunch, buena vista bistro, design district restaurants, frozen yogurt, miami, south beach, Travel Feasts
Whenever I’m in the Union Square vicinity craving something sweet, I feel like my choices are either Max Brenner or…Max Brenner. A few days ago after dinner in the area, my friends and I were trying to figure our game plan for dessert and we just as easily gave up and began heading for some chocolate by the bald man. We stopped in our tracks though when we caught a glimpse of Viva La Crêpe!
Viva la Crepe
The original outpost of Viva actually did start in Paris and grew to work its way stateside. They have a full savory and sweet menu, but the savory one might as well have not existed for us at that moment. We were busy trying to decide between dark chocolate, nutella, white chocolate, vanilla or chocolate ice cream, berries or almonds, etc. etc. We settled on a nutella/banana/almond/walnut/vanilla ice cream combo and a heavenly dark chocolate/berries/banana/vanilla ice cream one.
Dark chocolate ice cream crepe
The crepes are served in a little pocket you can hold while you munch. Just a word of advise if you’re getting it with ice cream, ask for it on the side . It makes devouring it a LOT easier.
Nutella crepe with ice cream on the side
So yeah, as I’ve mentioned, we’ve been eating a LOT in sunny, beautiful, gorgeous Miami. The fancier of the places we’ve been to is restaurateur Shareef Malnik’s The Forge.
Yeah, I know, it looks like you’re walking into a palace. It kinda feels like that too. The grandiose exterior matches the opulent interior.
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posted on: 04.05.11 | filed under: American, FOOD - "The Delicious", French, Steakhouse, Travel Feasts
| tags: French, miami restaurants, shareef malnik, south beach restaurants, Steakhouse, the forge, Travel Feasts