October 10, 2013

Is silent dining the latest talk of the town?

A New York restaurant offers a $40 prix fixe four-course meal sans the chit-chat.

The Associated Press

Quiet, please. Your dinner will now be served. That’s the message being sent to customers at a New York City restaurant that prohibits any talking during an occasionally offered $40 prix fixe, four-course meal.

click image to enlarge

Patrons dine at a restaurant called Eat on Sunday in Brooklyn, N.Y. The restaurant in the trendy Greenpoint neighborhood is serving up a $40 prix fixe four-course meal of organic, locally sourced food, but isn’t allowing any chit-chat.

The Associated Press

Nicholas Nauman, head chef at Eat in Brooklyn’s trendy Greenpoint neighborhood, said he was inspired to pitch the tight-lipped consumption sessions after spending time in India, where Buddhist monks take their breakfast without exchanging words.

“It’s just an opportunity to enjoy food in a way you might not have otherwise,” said the chef, noting that the sounds of forks on dishes and cooks in the kitchen provide some background noise to the experience. “There’s such a strong energy in the room.”

The silent-dining experience, experts said, seems to fit with other attention-getting shticks that many restaurant owners and chefs often resort to in the notoriously competitive restaurant business.

At Moto, in Chicago, diners can eat the menu. In Paris, London, Barcelona and Moscow, restaurant-goers at Dans le Noir? – French for “In the Dark?” – are served in the pitch-dark. And pop-up restaurants – where one chef takes over another’s restaurant for the night – have long been the rage.

“As a mother of two 15-year-old boys it is kind of a fantasy to go do that,” Tanya Steel, editor-in-chief of Epicurious.com, said of the silent-dining experience at Eat. “But as someone who pays money to go out, I would feel like I’m in some kind of silent film; it would be incredibly difficult.”

At a recent evening at Eat, restaurant-goers didn’t seem to mind the silent treatment as they noshed on salads and sipped their soups.

One polite customer walked out the door to sneeze in order to avoid breaking the silence. Another could barely hold back a strong case of the giggles. And one couple found ways to communicate with facial expressions, instead of words.

“It’s kind of like a meditation,” Eat owner Jordon Colon said. “The silence speaks for itself.”

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