You’ve seen him on “Iron Chef America.” You’ve seen him on “Top Chef Masters.”

David Burke is culinary royalty of the Garden State variety. He grew up in Hazlet. He was already a big deal at 26 years old when he received three stars from The New York Times for The River Café.

Of the well over a dozen restaurants he operates currently several are right here in New Jersey. Drifthouse in Sea Bright, Ventanas in Fort Lee, Red Horse in Rumson, just to name a few.

So why am I writing about him? Because he’s taken on something I’ve heard of before but never tried. And after I read NJ Monthly’s description of it I never, ever, ever will.

Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IRC
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IRC

Dining in the dark. I’ve heard of this sort of thing in the past from other chefs. One version I read was where the dining room itself was kept pitch black and the servers and bussers wore night vision goggles to work.

In the case of David Burke, it happens by blindfolding the customers. His Dining in the Dark nights are being done at his various restaurants on certain nights and by advance ticketing only. So good luck getting in.

Woman and Man at blind date

July 12 and August 9 it’s at Red Horse in Rumson. July 28 the blindfolds come out at The GOAT in Union Beach.

The point of eating without seeing? Burke says it’s

to make the evening all about surprise and discovery. It’s really empowering to learn how much your other senses can add to a meal when you can’t see what’s going on.

So it turns out it’s not just without seeing. It’s without knowing.

I always thought these blind dinners were to just add to the sense of taste and smell by taking away the sense of sight. Turns out according to KT Harrison who tried one of these nights you not only don’t see what you’re eating, you don’t know what you’re eating.

Harrison says Burke informed them of their first course that plates were placed before them like the face of a clock at noon, three, six and nine.

Harrison writes,

Noon seemed to be a Shore-worthy fried seafood something. Three o’clock was clearly bruschetta. Six, maybe a meatball. Nine … soft, tasted of truffles; a marvelous mystery. Our drink with that course tasted of gin and a fruit.

The rest of the courses went on the same. You’re putting things in your mouth having no clue what they are.

MAY be a meatball?!?!?!


No. No no no. How could this possibly be enjoyable? It could be a meatball or a Rocky Mountain oyster (bull’s testicle) or the frontal lobe of a monkey brain for all you know.

I don’t want to be guessing what’s in my mouth is spaghetti then find out later it was the vas deferens of a humpback whale. How is anyone okay with this?

Look it’s not that I’m totally vanilla and boring and unadventurous. I mean I tried eating tripe. Couldn’t, but tried. I’ve eaten muskrat. I’ve had camel and wild boar. It’s just that when I’m eating muskrat I want to know I’m eating muskrat. You know?

The imagination can be a rollaway car. Slowly at first. Then with a mind all its own and you’re powerless to reason with it.

Sure you can say ‘Would David Burke risk his entire reputation by serving you the reproductive organs of whales and passing it off as spaghetti?’ Of course not. But try telling that to your gag reflex when you bite into something you swear squishes like an eyeball.

No thanks. Hard pass. I’ll save the blindfolds for the bedroom. But you go enjoy yourself.

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