Opaque ~ San Francisco | Memosne

Opaque ~ San Francisco

I love gimmick-y restaurants. Especially themed restaurants. I think I'm just a consumer that way. So what's the gimmick to this restaurant you ask? From the sign above you guys can probably postulate that you're probably eating in the dark. I know of several restaurants that advertise dining in the dark, probably most prominently O, Nuit in Toronto, Dark Table in Vancouver, and Dining in the Dark in Boston . However, my sister and I have been reading about Opaque for awhile and we probably won't be going to Toronto/Boston for a long time. That and my parents hate themed restaurants...so we probably won't have a very good chance of going in Vancouver either.

The dining experience is truly unique and I feel that I'll be talking to you more about the experience than the food. I'll take this opportunity to tell you now that it is kind of expensive...as in $100 per person expensive. Originally, the boyfriend and I mistakenly made a reservation, saw the price, tried to call and cancel, and then subsequently realized that it cost $50 dollars per person to cancel. Although we may not have fully intended on going....the experience was a good one and my sister, boyfriend, and I all had quite a bit of fun in the dark. No hanky panky between the boyfriend and I though! That shit is gross.

This is a long post, here's a photo of my dog looking disgruntled.
Before you go into the restaurant I suggest you wash your hands, I gave up using utensils during the appetizer dish and I feel that your hands will be accidentally dipped, dragged and inserted into your food. You'll also want to wear clothes that you don't mind staining....

I don't want to ruin the surprise of dining in the darkness for everyone, but I'll rate the service, discuss the food, and share my experiences. For the food I'll give my impression of it, but for the completeness of this post I'll return to the sister restaurant, Indigo, and order some dishes to further analyze them with sight. =) I think concentrating so hard on eating and actually getting the food into your mouth, took away some of the brain power one would usually use to "comment" on the cuisine. All of it was tasty and well executed, but I think, as I said before, dining at Opaque was about the experience.

Here he is hiding behind my mom.
As for the service, it was A+. They were polite, efficient, friendly and always there whether you needed them or not (which was helpful in the super dark environment you were in). As for the ambiance and decor....I couldn't tell you much. When they mean pitch black, they mean pitch black. It was really interesting to me the way that the servers "adjusted" to the darkness. Some people might tell you that the waitstaff there have "night vision" or "infrared goggles", but our waiter, who was very kind and friendly, said that Opaque only really hired people with existing vision problems. Our waiter bussed and carried food on a cart, refiled our waters to the perfect amount by listening to the ice cubes tinkle in our glasses, and in case we needed him he just popped up now and then to check on us. Genuinely, probably one of the best nights of service I've ever received in a restaurant...which was good, because we were completely helpless in the dark. I have to say though there were some issues with the rate our food was coming out of the kitchen, for once it was actually too fast, and one of the reasons we might have received impeccable service is because the restaurant wasn't particularly busy that Wednesday evening.

First walking into the restaurant you'll be guided into a lighted corridor, seen above, and you'll be able to pick three dishes: an appetizer, a main and a dessert, from a set menu. I chose the Ahi Tuna Tartare with the taro chips, the steak with mashed potatoes and green beans, and a warm chocolate cake with minted strawberries and vanilla ice cream. After ordering your entire meal, you'll be directed to wait until your server comes out to lead you to your table and reminded that cell phones, cameras, glow in the dark watches, and any glittery jewelry are strictly prohibited within the dining room. At Opaque there are two types of tables: booths and the open dining room. Luckily enough, my boyfriend, sister and I were able to sit at a booth so we could chat and embarrass ourselves privately. Given the chance to settle and take in our surroundings I drew a picture to give you guys an idea of what the main dining room looked like.

Very Dark
Honestly, with such a "gimmicky" restaurant and hook, I didn't really have high expectations for the food. Surprisingly, it was quite delicious. Opaque is the sister restaurant of Indigo, which is located next door, and as such they share some menu items and a joint kitchen. Given the chance I would probably dine at Indigo, rather than Opaque, because they share items on the menu for a much cheaper price. After being seated at your table you'll be treated to bread and two "included" treats: a smoked salmon amuse bouche and a vegetable platter with three dips. 

The freebies that they gave us, were quite obviously freebies: a little smoked salmon, with some cream cheese on top of a cucumber round and a platter of chopped vegetables with three dipping sauces, but they did a lot to ease you, as a diner, in to the experience of eating without your sight. At that point you realize eating is much more about touch, smell, and taste. As a diner, textures are important in your mouth, but I didn't really expect that I'd be mashing my hands around in the food to even get an idea where it was. Eating the salmon and cucumber was easy enough, but consuming the vegetables and dip was actually quite difficult. I kept on dipping my fingers into the three sauces, a yogurt tzatziki, a sundried tomato spread, and what resembled hummus, when searching for the assorted vegetables that accompanied them: cucumber rounds, broccoli, green beans, and sliced red bell peppers.

Here's a photo that didn't make it into the Sugarlips post
After these little treats were devoured, we all got our appetizers: two tuna tartares and the house salad with walnuts, blue cheese, and cranberries.  The tuna tartare was tasty and was addictive and my sister enjoyed the freshness of the salad. The tartare was composed of sizeable chunks of fresh tuna and equally sized chunks of pears to break up the texture of the tartare. Perhaps it was the darkness that was playing tricks on me, but I definitely thought the proportion of the Tuna Tartare was way too much for the four taro chips that accompanied the mound of tuna and pears in the middle. I had also given up on using utensils and my hands had become quite sullied in trying to eat the tuna tartare like a barbarian. Even when I did try to revert back into a civilized human being, I had greased up my utensils and my water glass quite considerably. Essentially, everything in my radius of touch got kind of icky. 

Here's my dog celebrating Chinese New Year
Our entree course quickly arrived, before we were even done with our appetizers, and we had to scramble to empty our table. My sister an I had ordered the steak while my boyfriend ordered the penne pasta. The latter was probably a much smarter choice. The steak was served on a flat plate with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans, covered in a sauce of some sort. I was already in extreme paranoia mode because I didn't want to spill anything on my dress, but the steak was very tender and flavorful and the mashed potatoes were heavenly. However, I spent 10 minutes cutting my mashed potatoes with my fork and knife in a desperate plea to not get any stains on my skirt by using utensils. Frustrated and hungry because I wasn't able to get any food into my mouth, I hunched over my plate and just ate with my hands. The beef was a bit tough to chew through and I really honestly wish they had pre cut the meat. Chewing through a thick chunk of red meat sometimes just isn't pleasant. My sister had the same complaints, only instead of cutting her mashed potatoes for 10 minutes she accidentally pushed all of her steak into her lap trying to find out where it was.  My boyfriend had an easier time with his penne pasta, and from what I heard it was very tasty and al dente, but he had a hard time orienting where the pasta was on his fork. As a result he just rammed the pasta into his face a couple of times.  I was so full after the tuna tartare, vegetable plate and gorging myself on bread that I sort of gave up eating halfway through the main course. I had asked our wonderful waiter if he could box it for me. He came back telling me "Justine, there's some bad news! The plate you wanted me to box only had a mouthful of meat and a green bean on it!" I guess that's what dining in the dark does to you....

Here's some honey from the Seattle farmers market.
The desserts were good, two chocolate cakes and one panna cotta, and the two types of desserts were delicious, but difficult to navigate in the dark. For me the chocolate cake was very, very rich and needed to be mellowed out with the minted strawberries and vanilla ice cream...but in the darkness I could only put together large, rich chunks of chocolate cake on my spoon. Unfortunately, because of the unbalanced ratios of the cake to ice cream and strawberries, I had to eat all the melted vanilla ice cream and minty strawberries by their lonesome. Boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed the cake and my sister said she was so full from the appetizer and main course that she couldn't really appreciate her panna cotta. 

All in all I have to say that the three of us had a lot of fun dining at Opaque. I'm not sure if I can justify it's $100 per person tasting menu, but you're paying for the fun and the experience of dining in the dark. If you go, don't cheat!! I would lose my respect for you forever. Haha, go hard or go home! Thanks for reading guys!

Price: $$$$$ out of $$$$$ (For what it was worth certainly, if you want to try the food alone just go to Indigo!)
Kid Friendly: Yes
Repeatability: Maybe (Probably with friend or individuals that were really gung-ho about the experience, but the three of us again? Probably not)

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