The dining in the dark concept has hit Saigon hard recently, with two new theme restaurants opening since September (Blackout is the other, at 74/7D Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC, sharing space with La Camargue).


Further down Hai Ba Trung lies Noir, Dining in the Dark. Walking through the front doors guests are welcomed by a warm, ambient living room filled with a fusion of French and Asian décor — sophisticated yet comfortable.

 

With a combined 25 years of experience in food and beverage service, Noir owners Vu Anh Tu and Germ Doornbos’ resumés have included stints at Sofitel Metropole and the Hilton Opera in Hanoi, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, Vido Group and more.

 

Soon they plan to open a well-lit restaurant upstairs, featuring modern Asian cuisine, available for lunch and dinner.

 

“Tu and I, we both had our jobs [until recently], so we never really considered the immediacy of starting our own restaurant. We always wanted our own place but yeah, when you’re working for another company, its kind of a dream.”

 

Noir Gives Back

 

 

“In Vietnam, only 6.3 percent of people who are visually impaired or blind have a job,” Germ says. “In Europe and parts of the US, blind people are a part of the society. However, here in Vietnam it is very limited. There’s still a long way to go.”

 

Germ and Tu developed a two-and-a-half month training programme for their 10 blind and visually impaired employees, going over every aspect of Noir in detail.

 

Tu says, “We really thought this was a good opportunity for blind people and the visually impaired to have a new kind of job here in Vietnam.”

 

Dining In The Dark

 

 

With the option of choosing two different types of courses — one from the East incorporating dishes from Thailand, Japan and Vietnam (VND480,000++ for three courses, VND350,000++ for two) and one from the West featuring classic European dishes (VND560,000++ for three courses, VND420,000++ for two) — we decided to go with the East.

 

Noir’s chef, Ngo Thanh Tuan, experiments with our four available senses, fooling our palates with different flavours and textures. Coming from a background of five-star hotels and restaurants, it’s no wonder the food is so mouth-wateringly delicious. We won’t spoil the surprise by letting you in on the secret courses, but they are indeed delectable.

 

After locking our belongings in a security locker with surveillance, we were led into a pitch-black dining room and guided to our seats. Our blind server explained to us where all of the dining items were placed, entrusting us with real glassware and utensils.

 

“Is it pumpkin, carrot or — no, no, no, maybe it’s green bean?” we heard the other table say.

 

Our taste buds were awoken by different spices, sauces and textures, as we tried to guess which dish was which. The service was faultless.
“Since 70 percent of our senses is sight, 70 percent of the message sent to your brain is from what you see,” Germ says. “If you take some of these sights away and really focus on the remaining 30 percent — the smell, taste, hearing and touching — you really get kind of wowed.” — Rachel Cabakoff

 

Noir, Dining in the Dark is at 178 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC. For a sneak peek, check noirdininginthedark.com

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