Stepping into complete darkness

This past Sunday Mrs. T and I went to a Vancouver restaurant called Dark Table using a Groupon deal. Mrs. T had previously purchased the deal and gave it to me as Christmas gift. Yes it has taken me almost 2 months to claim my Christmas gift…

Before going to the restaurant we didn’t know what to expect, all we knew is that it will be dark inside and our waiter will be a blind or visually impaired person. Some friends of ours had been to the restaurant before and all had raving reviews. Needless to say, we were quite excited yet somewhat nervous at the same time.

Upon arrival in the lighted lounge we took our time and choose from the menu. To make the eating experience more interesting, the restaurant didn’t offer any choice for appetizer and dessert. We were told that we’d get a surprise for both courses. Luckily there were some choices for the main course. After some consideration I decided to go with the beef tenderloin with peppercorn sauce, potatoes, and vegetables. Mrs. T was feeling adventurous so she decided to go with the surprise dish for main as well.

We sat in the lighted area for a few minutes before we were guided into the restaurant by our waiter, Dustin. As we entered the restaurant and walked past the double black door entrance I saw another set of dark doors and all the walls were black. As the doors slowly closed behind us, it went from dimly lit to complete darkness. We were stepping into complete darkness…

It was pitch dark inside and I was about to freak out!

It was comforting that Dustin right away gave us a quick introduction, asked us to go in single file and hold onto the shoulder of the person in front as we walked deeper into the restaurant. We wanted to go to the bathroom first before getting seated so Dustin guided us to the bathroom.

The walk to the bathroom seemed to have taken forever. We zigzagged across the restaurant and past a few other people. There were a lot of noise inside and I could hear the waiters saying “careful, careful, on your right, on your left, etc” as they  navigated through the restaurant. When we finally arrived at the bathroom, I was thankful that it was dimly lit so I could see for a brief moment (wouldn’t want to pee on the floor or myself, right?).

When we were done, we waited behind a dark curtain for Dustin to guide us to the table.

Dustin soon appeared and guided us through the restaurant to our table.  I was completely disoriented as we walked across the restaurant. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t even see my own hands. Luckily Dustin provided excellent instructions and I felt at ease hearing him providing instructions and told us where our chairs were so we could both sit down.

There was no light inside as no light producing technologies were allowed in the dining room, including flashlights, cellphones, or luminous watches. It was completely dark, I might as well close my eyes and I wouldn’t even know the difference.

After a brief moment in the complete darkness, I was amazed how quickly my hearing adjusted. I was hearing so much better than usual. Soon I found myself trying to orient myself in the complete darkness but couldn’t make much sense out of that.

We sat at our table without knowing how big the restaurant was or many people were inside. We could hear a lot of people talking around us but couldn’t really make out their conversations. I touched on the table and found my fork, knife, water glass, and a round plate. Touching around I noticed that the table was round, probably so people wouldn’t walk into a sharp corner.

Mrs. T and I were excited and nervous at the same time. Pretty quickly our waiter brought us a basket of bread. We moved our hands around to feel the bread and each grabbed one. It sure was interesting trying to open the butter package and spread butter on top of the bread in complete darkness. I had to use my hands to feel a few times to make sure I actually had butter on the knife.

A little while later Dustin came back and brought us the appetizer which looked like this.

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Awesome, I have no idea what the surprise appetizer is. So I took the fork and started poking around on the plate and tried to get some food in my mouth. My first few attempts were quite pathetic but eventually I developed a strategy and began to proudly feed myself. The appetizer was a salad dish, which consisted of beet, some sort of nuts (pine nuts?) apple, mushroom, and some sort of spicy dressing.

Mrs. T and I sat in the dark and had great conversations. There are no distractions around us. We ignored all the noises, talked to each other, and could be completely present. (not having the option of pulling out the phone 🙂 ).

Dustin came back a bit later with the main courses which looked like this: (Delicious, right?).

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I was delighted to hear that my beef was pre-cut already, making it easier to eat. I first used my right hand to feel around the plate before poking around with my fork. Just like the appetizer it took a few tries before I managed to get something in my mouth. Sometimes I was expecting beef in my mouth but I got potato or vegetables instead. Meanwhile, Mrs. T had no idea what was on her dish so she took a few bites. At first she thought it was lamb but after a few more bites she determined it was some sort of white fish on top of herb and lemon risotto with beans, carrots and beets.

We began to feel quite comfortable eating in complete darkness. We even felt a little adventurous by sharing our food with each other, and cheered with our glasses several times, just because we could.

Eventually Dustin came back to our table with the dessert which looked just like the previous dishes. Amazing!

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I quickly felt the dessert and determined it was some sort of rectangular soft cake. I then took a quick bite (as quick as you can in the dark) and immediately realized it was a chocolate cake. Delicious!

The whole dining experience was very interesting. I’ve never dined in complete darkness before. It was interesting eating in a complete pitch dark environment and not being able to see anything at all. We had to feel our food throughout the evening. It was almost impossible to have a perspective of how big of a portion the different dishes were. It was also hard to take the food off the plate with the fork and knife and put it in my mouth. It was also quite interesting that my hearing was heightened. I was able to hear Mrs. T very well even though there were tons of noise around.

The entire evening Mrs. T and I had some wonderful conversations. We enjoyed each other’s company and really enjoyed the dining in the dark experience.

At end of the night when we paid at the cashier we found out the surprise appetizer was a salad consisted of beet, apple, mushroom, sunflower seeds and arugula dressing. For Mrs. T’s main dish it was indeed a fish risotto with vegetables (I forgot the fish name). For the surprise dessert it was a red velvet cake (it could have been blue and we wouldn’t known it!).

During the night I was also asking to myself… how does this experience relate to the world of investing? Can I take anything away from this experiencing?

In many ways I think eating in the dark shares many similarities to investing in the stock markets. Here are some golden nuggets that I came up with in my crazy mind while eating in complete darkness, scheming some sort of wicked plans…

 

1. There is always going to be noise around you. Whether to listen to the noises or not, is your personal decision. 

When we invest in any stocks, we hear news about the stocks all the time. This company is cutting jobs, oil price is tanking, job report is terrible, employment rate increases, consumer debt went up, etc, etc. We need to learn to ignore the noise and not allow the noise to influence how to invest. Your investment decision is totally up to you. Ignore the noises, focus what you have in hand.

 

2. Develop your own investment strategy and stick with it.

When I was eating food on my plate, I was initially struggling with putting food in my mouth as I kept dropping it while moving it from the plate to my mouth. I eventually developed a strategy where I would scoop something with the fork, making sure the food was properly on the fork with my index finger, and then bring the food to my mouth. This improved the food to mouth success rate tremendously. I also developed a strategy to eat from the furthest section of the plate first then slowly work my way toward the section closest to me. When I thought I was done, I would poke around the fork in a pattern to make sure no food was left.

When we invest in the stock markets, we need to develop our own investment strategy, whether it’s growth investing, index investing, dividend investing, or some sort of hybrid investing. Once we develop our investment strategy it is important to stick with the strategy and not jumping back and forth between the different investment strategies. If you switch back and forth, your investment may not grow at all. This is like changing my overall eating strategy every minute and not getting any food in my mouth.

3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes.

Both Mrs. T and I dropped food pieces a few times and laughed at it. I quickly learned what I did wrong and learned from my mistakes so I could continue bringing food to my mouth in complete darkness. The same concept applies to investment. It’s sucks to make mistakes but it’s OK to make them. The most important thing is to learn from these mistakes. I’m sure the legendary investor Warren Buffet has made his share of investment mistakes too. But I believe what makes him different than your average investors is that Buffet learns from his mistakes so he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

4. Always focus on the end goal.

The end of goal of Dark Table experience was to have a nice meal and enjoy the experience. With the end goal in mind we made sure that we enjoyed ourselves and were being present with each other. When it comes to investing, we need to have an end goal. Is the end goal to have a certain amount in your portfolio? Is it the end goal to have a certain amount of dividend income? Is it the end goal to have sufficient amount to meet your retirement needs? These end goals will be different per individual. What is your end goal?

5. Have fun

Have fun while you are at it. When you’re investing don’t think about money and how your portfolio is doing all the time. You need to have fun and enjoy life too. If you don’t, you will end up not liking what you do.

 

What do you think about this eating in the dark experience? Would you dare to do it?

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35 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
    February 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I got to “A little while later Dustin came back and brought us the appetizer which looked like this.” and then burst out laughing.

    I’ve been interested about the experience at these types of restaurants. I wouldn’t have even thought about opening the butter packets, or not worrying about talking openly because no one will recognize you when you walk out after. Thanks for the insights!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Emily,

      Glad to have made you burst out laughing. That was my goal of this blog post. It was a great experience eating in the dark.

  • Reply
    Income Surfer
    February 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Outstanding buddy. Being present or mindful is a wonderful skill. I’ve been working on that myself. Isn’t incredible when one of our senses is dulled, in this case your sight, how much more powerful your other senses become. That food most have been fragrant and tasty. Thanks for sharing
    -Bryan

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Hi Bryan,

      Good to see you back man. Being present is a skill that I’m trying to work on myself.

  • Reply
    Roadmap2Retire
    February 24, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Sounds like you enjoyed it and I like how you’ve tied it to investing and drawn the parallels. Montreal has the same kind of restaurants called Noir – but I never tried it out when I lived there.

    Nice pictures, btw 😉

    R2R

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Hi R2R,

      I think the other places in Canada that have similar restaurants are in Montreal and Toronto. You should totally try it one of these days.

  • Reply
    Henry
    February 24, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Why are the pictures just black? I would’ve used the LED light on my phone haha.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      They probably would have kicked me out of the restaurant if I did that haha.

  • Reply
    Liquid
    February 24, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    I’ve heard of this restaurant before but have never been in it myself. It is sometimes said that we tend to eat with our eyes. However if our site is taken away then our other senses like taste and smell become stronger. Wow, the salad appetizer looks amazing. You can tell that a lot of work went into the plating and presentation 😉 lol.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Haha Mr. T and I were wondering how much work they put into for plating and presentation. I guess we would never know.

  • Reply
    Dividend Mantra
    February 24, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Tawcan,

    The main dish looks delicious!

    I’m lucky in that I don’t have to eat in complete darkness to remind myself to ignore the noise, but it’s great that you guys had a good time and were able to focus on being present. That’s something that’s disappointingly uncommon these days…especially with everyone running around with their smart phones glued to their faces.

    Cheers!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Hi Dividend Mantra,

      Agree that so many people are running around with their smart phones glued to their faces. I guess I am guilty doing that from time to time. I can never understand two people eating out in a restaurant and they have their faces glued to the smartphone the entire time and don’t bother talking to each other. So odd.

  • Reply
    MP
    February 24, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Tawcan,

    Funny that you write about this experience as I felt exactly what you describe some years ago in a similar restaurant in Zurich.
    At the time I wasn’t into the financial world, but now that you try to find similarities, one came to my mind too: after one hour of sitting in the dark, I had some freaking out moments when I was wondering if I could see again when out of the restaurant. It was panic until I take a breath and step back to realize that everything was going to be fine.
    The same applies to the stock market: sometimes you feel like you invest your money into a black box and you fear that you could lose everything. In these moments, just step back or go out take a walk. The market won’t crash and even if it does, this would be an opportunity for you to buy more stocks at a cheap price 😉
    Did you experience these moments of panic yourself?

    Another benefit of this dark dinner is that it made me realize how lucky we are to be able to visually enjoy all the beauty of our world!!!

    Yours,
    MP

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      Hi MP,

      Fortunately I didn’t freak out like you did. I can definitely see how you would freak out after sitting in the dark for over an hour though. Yes stock market is like a black box, you don’t have any control over it and if you focus on the noises and daily fluctuations you’ll freak yourself out for sure.

      I love when the markets are volatile, that just provide great opportunity to buy.

  • Reply
    M from theresvalue
    February 25, 2015 at 3:48 am

    This is so cool. I almost went to the one in Berlin, but somehow never got round to it. Perhaps next time.

    Love what you said about not listening to the noise around us. It is so important to sit down, be quiet, and focus on what you want, what you’re doing, and where you’re going.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Hi M,

      That’s cool there’s one in Berlin. I guess it’s a “cool” thing to do. It’s definitely important to know what you want so you can achieve it.

  • Reply
    BeSmartRich
    February 25, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Oh hahaha. That is an really interesting restaurant. I will stop by there for sure when I visit Vancouver and order surprise dishes 🙂

    BeSmartRich

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      Hi BeSmartRich,

      You should stop by and try it out for sure.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      It’s always refreshing to gain different perspective when you walk in someone else’s shoes. That’s why I enjoy experience like this so much. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Reply
    Dividend Gremlin
    February 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Tawcan,

    Interesting place to eat. Do they screen people for allergies before they serve them? Also I wonder if food/health inspectors are allowed in with lights, that would make sense – I am sure they have some provision for it.

    Otherwise nice observations about investing – something the talking heads on TV would either appreciate or feel threatened by.

    – Gremlin

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Hi Dividend Gremlin,

      Yes they ask if you have any food allergies before you enter the restaurant. They probably would serve you something different.

  • Reply
    Mr Zombie
    February 25, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Sounds ace. One question. Did you not come out covered in food?

    There’s one over here. In London I think.

    Mr Z

    PS your photography skills are outstanding mate.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Mr. Zombie,

      Haha yeah I wiped myself pretty well before we walked out of the restaurant. I was certainly covered in food hehe.

  • Reply
    Vivianne
    February 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Your hand won’t miss your mouth even in the dark. Must come from the hand to the dishes eheh. I enjoy the story very much. Thank you for sharing.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Vivianne,

      The challenging part was to make sure the food stayed on the fork when you move the fork from the plate to your mouth. This was especially hard when the food was not something you could stick the fork into. 🙂

  • Reply
    Mrs. Maroon
    February 25, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    What an awesome idea for a restaurant!! Very, very creative. I love how you were able to relate your experience to investing. The best advice comes from inspirations like this.

    And kudos to you on the pictures. Your story wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining without such stunning visuals!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Mrs. Maroon,

      Hehe I thought the excellent pictures just showcased how excellent the 3 course meal was. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Reply
    Jeff
    February 25, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Hi Tawcan! I think they made a TV show using that premise. I think its called Dating in the Dark. Sounds like an excellent experience and it seems like a good opportunity to get to know yourself and someone else better. I like the investing analogy as well. 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      I was telling Mrs. T about Dating in the Dark when we were eating that night. It was definitely similar idea.

  • Reply
    FrugalitytoFinancialFreedom
    February 25, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Tawcan,
    Great pictures, very enlightening I would say 🙂
    One question on the food, do you think eating in the dark heightens your taste buds as you dont see the food?
    Great points on the investing side, ignore the noise and dont be afraid to make mistakes. I made quite a few of them already and still I dont forget to have fun, especially when the dividends are rolling out.
    Take care,
    FFF

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Hi FFF,

      I think eating in the dark definitely heightened my taste buds. I was able to determine what I was eating very quickly and really savor the food.

  • Reply
    Brian So
    February 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    The real challenge would be cooking in the dark 😉

    I think another parallel you can draw between the world of investing and Dark Table is value. Did you receive fair value for the dining experience and do you think the stock you buy are reasonably valued? I’m sure you can even consider the risk of choosing a random dish to the risk of a particular investment. If you think about it, many experiences can be related to the investment world.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Brian,

      I think cooking in the dark is too dangerous. Having said that I’ve done it a few times while camping under moonlight. That was challenging.

      Good point about whether I received fair value for the dining experience vs buying reasonable valued stocks. Definitely think that we received fair value for the dining experience.

  • Reply
    weenie
    March 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    What an incredible experience, I’d love to try that out! Love your photos (they clearly show how it was, haha!) and love how you tied up your experience with investing.

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