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Why go Dining in the Dark in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Why go Dining in the Dark in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Ever tried dining in pitch black darkness?

Sure, we’ve all probably experienced blackouts just as we sit down to a meal but you grab a candle, light it up, and keep eating.

But what if you had no light at all? What if you had to eat while being totally blind? How would you cope without the power of sight. Not being able to see what’s right in front of you. Unable to gage by sight hot or cold, dry or wet, sticky or slimy?

Dine in the Dark in Phnom Penh gives you a chance to experience this first hand. To find out what it’s like everyday for the estimated 144,000 blind people who live in Cambodia.

Dining in the Dark

Although this may seem like an awkward experience (which it is – but in a good way) you are guided from beginning to end by the fantastic waiters of Dine in the Dark who are visually impaired themselves.

By eating at Dine in the Dark you are helping support a restaurant that promotes equal opportunity employment for the  past, and present students of NGO Krousar Thmey – School for the deaf & blind.

More and more equal employment and training restaurants like this are opening in Cambodia. Such projects really are an important part of helping Cambodia to heal and distance itself from its tragic past. By giving Khmers with disabilities an equal opportunity to study and be employed, this in turn encourages other disadvantaged Khmer’s to find hope, get off the streets, and get educated.

So, what’s it like dining in the dark?

When you make your booking there are 3 food styles to choose from:

  • Khmer (Cambodian)
  • International
  • Vegetarian

This is all you know about your upcoming meal – there will be 3 courses and to “enjoy your dine in the dark experience”. It is only revealed to you at the end of the evening what you ate so if you do have any food issues / allergies etc. make sure you tell them in advance.

Next you are introduced to your waiter / guide for the night. We had the pleasure of having Fredo who welcomed us and then led us up the staircase to the dining area.

It’s a strange experience. Passing through one very heavy curtain the area starts to get darker, your eyes try hard to adjust, grabbing at any light you can find. Fredo then led us through 2 more equally heavy curtains until we found ourselves in complete pitch blackness. You seriously couldn’t see anything at all. No matter how hard your eyes try to source out some slither of light – it doesn’t exist. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face.

It was here, feeling quite clumsy and vulnerable, in complete darkness that we met Honey, who showed Tommo to his side of the table while Fredo guided me to mine. They both take the time to explain where everything is located on the table and then advise us that the first course will be arriving shortly.

The good thing is that Fredo never leaves you for long. Even though you can’t actually see that he’s there – he is always around to answer any questions about the food and do waiter stuff like refill our water or get us another rum and coke. He also welcomes you to ask about his life, studies, dreams for the future etc.

It really is an amazing way to find out how someone in Cambodia, who is blind, survives and educates himself without having to resort to begging on the street like so many.

Honey (the other guide) is a social butterfly and you can hear her moving effortlessly from table to table in the pitch black, starting up conversations with guests, answering questions and creating a relaxing atmosphere for the diners. It’s great having them there every step of the way as it really is a disorienting experience – you seriously cannot see a thing.

Dining in the Dark

The first course arrives. You have no idea what you are being served. Not only can you not see what you are eating but you realise you don’t even know where the food is. Of course you know it’s on a plate in font of you, but where on the plate? For us this threw cutlery out the window (figuratively speaking – there are no windows) as we found ourselves bashing our fork around our plate and coming up with nothing.

We obviously were useless without our sight and lucky no one else could see us, because we had to resort to eating with our hands. Which we had done many times before – but for some reason here it seemed strange.

I’m not going to reveal what we ate as that would ruin the surprise menu (although they do rotate the menu too), but we can say that it was quite tasty.

Dine in The Dark offers a three and a bit course meal that costs $18 USD per person. Some people have previously complained that this is a high price to pay for a restaurant in Cambodia – and this is true. However it’s about the experience, the conversation with the wonderful guides. It’s about trying out someone else’s life for an hour or two and seeing how you would cope with being blind.

So it’s up to you. Did the $18 meal rock my world? No – but neither did most of the food in Cambodia. Was it an awesome, not to miss dining experience – Hell Yes!

Dine In the Dark Phnom Penh Details:

126, Street 19, Phnom Penh, Cambodia 855
Monday – Sunday 18:00 – 22:30
Phone +855 77 589 458
Email [email protected]
Website  (under construction June 2014)

It is worth making a reservation but not essential.


Have you had a unique dining experience like Dine In the Dark? Let us know in the comments