Cellphones aren’t allowed here. Neither are watches that emit light; there’s a locker for those items outside. Windows are blacked out. Walls are painted black. The dining room is filled with tables and chairs … but you won’t ever see them.
At Blackout (Dining in the Dark), you’re served six courses of food (four if you’re there for lunch) in—as the name suggests—total darkness. With no clue as to what the dishes look like, it’s up to your other senses to kick in and taste, touch and smell to guide the culinary journey.
For owners Rachel and Avi Levi, who also run the nonprofit One Family Animal Sanctuary in Las Vegas, the concept, which opened on July 3, has been seven years in the making. The couple first jumped into the restaurant industry in 2012 with Design and Dine, launching the city’s only painting workshop that paired dinner and drinks with creative expression. The business was so successful that they opened three locations in the span of three years.
“We really set ourselves apart with that, and [it] gave us the groundwork we needed to do a larger operation like Blackout,” Rachel says. “The dining attraction experience … it’s our niche.”
And this particular type of dining was always in the back of their minds.
“It’s a very unique thing to do,” she says. “We thought Vegas would be the perfect place to bring something [like it] to the dining world.”
Sure, the city has had sight-free food experiences before, the last of which took place this winter at Mandarin Oriental when Twist by Pierre Gagnaire turned off its lights. But now it’s permanent, thanks to the Levis. The location is strategic—just off the Strip, tucked behind the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino on Valley View Boulevard in a strip mall, easily accessible to both locals and tourists.
And the menu is even more thought out. It’s closely guarded (the Levis won’t give more than a few hints) in order to keep guests engaged and guessing from start to finish as they savor every bite and really get in touch with the flavors.
“When we do something, we like to add more of a creative twist, so we’ve got mystery menus,” Rachel says.
The only thing they will hint at is that the dishes are Mediterranean-fusion (the kitchen can accommodate most dietary restrictions) and created by Israeli chef Irit Pinhas. Also, the food will be on the more traditional side, so diners can figure out what they’re eating. However, the Levis expect most guesses to be wrong because of secret “twists.”
Blackout is pretty straightforward. Guests walk into the posh lobby lined with high-backed banquettes. As soon as they leave the lobby, they are enclosed in darkness. The server places a hand on their right shoulder and slowly weaves them through a hallway into the space.
Diners choose from three flavor profiles—sweet, spicy or savory—and then it’s a culinary journey from small bites to soup to an entrée, with dessert to wrap it up. For those who want to add booze, they can order drinks by the glass, as well as a pairing package of wine or specialty cocktails.
The menu, which is organic when possible, rotates seasonally to appeal to locals, making it less of a one-time meal and more of a place to come reintroduce your taste buds to flavors again and again.
Expect the restaurant to offer special events in the future, such as wine tasting in the dark and music in the dark.
“We want people to have a different perspective as to how their other senses are being enhanced,” Rachel explains. “The way they taste food, touch food, smell food … to really be thinking about all of these things and what they are eating.”
Blackout is open daily. Lunch is served noon–4 p.m. for $45 (four courses); dinner is from 4 p.m.–11 p.m. for $65 (six courses). 871 S. Valley View Blvd. Reservations are recommended: 702-960-4000.
Dining in the Dark takes a little getting used to. Here are some tips to prepare for the Blackout culinary adventure.
Come with an open mind. “Some people are going to be nervous when they walk in,” Rachel says. “When you get into the dark, it’s quite relaxing. Your social awareness lowers—you can’t see anyone. There’s no stress.”
Don’t be shy. Can’t quite get the fork and knife (it’s dull, don’t worry) to meet your plate? It’s OK. Hands are totally acceptable.
Trust yourself. According to Rachel, dining in the dark is more natural than you think, and when sight is out of the picture, your brain and hands pick up the slack.
Really savor with all the senses. Smell the food first, then touch it to all of the parts of your tongue—since different areas taste different things—then chew slowly. “It’s not about eating fast; it’s about eating and enjoying it,” Rachel says.