Noir. Dining in the Dark was established by Hanoian Tu Vu and Dutchman Germ Doornbos in October 2014. With a nationwide unemployment rate of 94% for the blind and visually impaired community in Vietnam, their aim was to provide a sustainable way to help support the Vietnamese visually impaired with employment opportunities besides the standard masseuse work.
They took inspiration from the highly successful worldwide format of “Dining in the Dark” and decided to implement it in Vietnam. It’s a sensory journey into a different world to savour the exquisite tastes and texture completely in darkness. They work closely with the Ho Chi Minh City Blind Association, Nhat Hong Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired and Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for Blind Children for consultation and recruitment and the staff go through an intensive training process in hospitality as well as life skills.
When guests first arrive at the restaurant, they are blindfolded and play a game that helps them to have a sense of what it’s like to be visually impaired. This is the first step in the guests’ introduction on what’s to come. Guests are then led into a pitch-black room for a culinary journey where their senses are challenged. You thought you knew what tuna tastes like? You thought you knew what carrots taste like? Even the top chefs travelling through get it wrong!
After the huge success of Noir: Dining in the Dark, Tu and Germ decided to open Blanc in July 2017, another restaurant situated in the beautiful vintage building complex next to Noir. This time their focus was on the hearing impaired community. Sitting in brightly lit rooms, guests are shown basic sign language and with the help of a reference book, they are asked to sign their order and communicate with their server in sign language.
Tu and Germ aren’t done yet. With Noir. and Blanc. in Saigon running strong, they wanted to provide other options besides hospitality. So what’s next for the couple? Là Hoa . Flowers Speak is a flower shop, employing deaf and hearing impaired where patrons can ask for a personalised greeting card message in sign language which can be scanned by QR code.
Furthermore, a spa and blind massage will be opened later this year, where touch, smell and sound combine in a sensory massage experience provided by blind and visually impaired therapists.
Tu and Germ have not only provided opportunities for people to make a career but also to provide the support and space for them to have confidence in themselves and their capabilities.