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Foodie Corner

Dining In The Dark Launches At Fort Lauderdale’s One Door East

Trendy restaurants nowadays know that bright surfaces and natural lighting are essential for diners looking to snap an Insta-worthy shot of their dishes, but one Fort Lauderdale hot spot is flipping the switch on its guests and inviting them to eat in pitch-black darkness.

One Door East, alongside its sister restaurant Valentino Cucina Italiana, has launched a six-course sensory dinner experience called Dining in the Dark, offered Tuesdays through Saturdays with seatings at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

While chef Giovanni Rocchio develops the rotating menu each night, Greg Kovach is the team member who guides guests through the experience. He hosted Dining in the Dark dinners at Market 17 for seven and a half years.

Greg Kovach with his night vision goggles (Photo courtesy of One Door East)

After Market 17 closed earlier this year, Kovach began his search for a new home for his unique dinner series and decided working with Valentino and One Door East would be the perfect fit.

“I was looking for an independently owned, fine dining, chef-driven restaurant. I had many dinners at the Chef’s Table at Valentino before, and they were on my short list of the best restaurants in town,” he says. “Then I had dinner at One Door East and that sealed the deal.”

Rocchio designs his menus to focus on texture, aroma and, of course, flavor, to make up for the fact that he won’t be given any points for visual presentation. The Dining in the Dark menu fuses the elegant Italian cuisine of Valentino with One Door East’s new-age tapas, and always features new dishes every session.

“Today, everyone is on social media and posting photos of their food before they take their first bite,” Rocchio says in a press release. “If we remove the light in the dining room, it gives diners the chance to open up the conversation and their palates.”

After sharing a welcome cocktail and getting to know each other before the start of their immersive dining experience, guests are guided into a pitch-black dining room by Kovach, who wears night vision goggles. Perhaps most notably, diners aren’t provided with any utensils—yes, that means you’re left only with your hands and plenty of questions about what that soft, squishy, leafy food item was that you were just eating. 

Cauliflower dish at One Door East (photo taken by Lyssa Goldberg)

“Once you take away the sense of sight, and turn off all of the lights and phones, you are there with only your sense of smell, taste, touch and even hearing,” Kovach says. “The conversation turns to 'What are we eating?' and then gets really fun.”

Given that eating with your hands instead of your eyes is certainly an unfamiliar experience for most, Kovach says he’s always entertained when guests come up with the wrong answer. “It’s like a mind trick.”

Of course, Kovach will give away the answer once diners have exhausted their guesses.

Dining in the Dark keeps the culinary experience intimate, with groups of up to 12 people per dinner session. Reservations for the dinners start at $105 per person, and an additional $45 wine pairing is available. Reservations can be made by calling 954.225.6430.

620 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954.368.6902; onedooreast.com

Top photo via Facebook/One Door East 

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