Dine In The Dark | Spice Studio (Alila Diwa Goa)

A strangely beautiful culinary voyage through myriad tastes and textures that lets you experience food in a completely new-fangled way is what sums up Alila Diwa’s ‘Dine in the Dark’.

Every Thursday, after sundown, the elegant restaurant at the Majorda hotel – Spice Studio – undergoes a fascinating makeover. What is usually a bright and lively dining room reverberating with sounds of laughter, conversation, and echoes of happy ‘cheers’, transforms into an almost eerily silent, pitch-dark area. You can hear nothing besides the chirping of crickets around you, the soft clinking of knives and forks and a few inquisitive murmurs here and there. And all you can touch is a friend’s hand – to hold on to for support – as you stumble your way across the room to get to your table.

What you can, however, fully sense, as you’re waiting in anticipation of what’s to happen next, are the divine aromas wafting out of the freshly cooked thali bedecked with an assortment of Indian preparations that is laid out in front of you. So why would a restaurant encourage you to completely surrender one of your dominant senses – sight, for one evening?

Executive Chef Amit Pathania explains, “When you’re in total darkness, you’re not be able to see anything because of which your other senses are heightened. Not being able to see your food shifts your entire focus to its taste and smell. You detect the niceties of the flavours better and the whole gastronomic experience is thereby enhanced.”

Pathania further informs that this concept was introduced in Geneva to make people understand the perspective of a visually impaired person. Restaurants would have a visually impaired staff serving food to blindfolded diners. Spice Studio does it a little differently – by temporarily converting  the Spice Studio space into a dark restaurant. They first adopted the idea to celebrate Earth Hour earlier this year. So overwhelming was the response they got, that they decided to make it a regular feature.

The menu is a complete surprise – you’re given absolutely no idea of what you’re going to be eating. The only choice you have, is that of picking between a vegetarian and non-vegetarian (boneless meats) thali. They also solicitously enquire if you have any food allergies, and consciously avoid using those ingredients. A huge spread of starters, main course, and dessert, is all laid out together – so don’t be startled if you mistakenly dig into a sweet something before you’ve even touched the entrée! The thali also covers a wide variety of flavours – the idea is to provide the maximum stimulation to your taste buds within a single meal.

It is a delightful experience to have to rack your brains to ‘guess’ the food you’re sampling. Some of the flavours are so familiar, yet you can’t put a pin on them, while some of the more uncommon ones are truly hard to identify. We could easily distinguish the quintessential sumptuousness of the pepper garlic prawns. The saccharine, spongy gulab jamuns were an easy guess to hazard as well. The flavourful kofta curry was not immediately recognisable, but a few spoonfuls did the trick. The dishes we really had to really dive deep down our culinary memories to identify were the spicy crab chettinad and the moist galouti kebabs.

It is after you’re done with the meal, that you’re given a list of the items you devoured. The revelation can either prove how hilariously inaccurate or astonishingly spot-on you were in guessing the food you were eating. But if we were to pick the best part of the entire dining experience – it would surely be the complete surrender of table etiquette along with your vision. For, why not? It’s not like anybody can see you!

Where: Spice Studio, Alila Diwa Goa, Majorda, Salcette, Goa

When: Every Thursday during the season. Every last Thursday during the off-season.