A Review Of “Dining In The Dark” At Little Llama Peruvian Tacos

Athena ScalziThe night I got to LA, I decided to look around online and see what kind of interesting and fun events would be happening whilst I was visiting. Almost immediately, I found an event called “Dining In The Dark” being held at a place in downtown LA called Little Llama Peruvian Tacos. Intrigued, I checked out the details. It entailed of a nine course dinner, all of which you were supposed to eat blindfolded. Obviously, I knew I had to try this out and see if dining in the dark is better than just regular dining.

Upon arrival, I noticed the place is actually very casual. It’s the kind of place where you order at the counter, with blackboard menus behind the registers and a fridge to grab your beverage of choice out of. In their own words it’s “a fun and casual environment with counter service and quick but not ‘fast’ food”.

They sat me at a table for two, though I was dining alone. Apparently there were two other solo diners, but I didn’t see them anywhere. I was surrounded by larger parties, and I honestly felt self-conscious. This was strange to me because I eat out alone all the time, and never feel weird about it. In fact, I’ve done it numerous times on this trip, but this was the first time I felt like I should have someone sitting across from me.

Moving on, I was given a welcome cocktail. We were given this before we adorned our blindfolds, so I did see what this looked like. It was passionfruit juice and sparkling wine, with a spicy salted rim. This was a really nice beverage! It was light and refreshing and perfectly sweet, and I quite enjoy the flavor of passionfruit so that was a plus. Also, I tried to avoid the spicy rim, but once I worked up the nerve to try it, it was really tasty and not too spicy.

Obviously I didn’t get any pictures, but the event organizer ended up sending an email out to everyone after the event that included the full tasting menu plus photos of each item. So that’s what you’re going to see!

"Maracuya Bellini: Passion Fruit + Sparkling Wine". A small plastic cup with bright yellowish orange passionfruit juice and sparkling wine in it, with a dark orange salty spicy rim and a dehydrated lime slice floating in the liquid.

After the drink and an explanation of how the event worked, we all put on our blindfolds. Basically, they’d serve you a course and then tell what it was afterwards. When it came to the blindfolds, they were like sleep mask style blindfolds. You couldn’t see through them but you could definitely see like, downwards? Like you could see the table and your hands and whatnot if you just looked down. Obviously, I didn’t want to see anything, so I just closed my eyes.

Then I accidentally saw the first course anyways because I was taking a sip of my water with my eyes open under the blindfold when they set it down in front of me so I literally saw it. My bad. It was in a little taster glass, and you were just supposed to drink it. It tasted like salsa at first. It was so bright and fresh, I really loved it! I thought it might be gazpacho since it probably was not just straight up salsa in a glass.

"Aji Amarillo Leche de Tigre: Savory Blend of Peruvian Peppers, Herbs & Spices, & Fresh Lime". A small taster glass partially filled with thick, bright orange liquid, topped with some parsley (I think it's parsley, I'm not actually sure), and accompanied by a slice of lime on the rim of the glass.

It was slightly spicy, but so flavorful and light at the same time. I could’ve eaten a huge bowl of this. This first course ended up being one of my favorites of the night.

Onto the second dish! It was actually kind of funny, the server put the course down in front of me and said “here’s your tuna tostada”. Ope. She told me what it was. And since I already knew what it was, I decided to look. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to, but the mystery had already been revealed! I had to peek. It looked really good. I was surprised at how nice the presentation was considering people weren’t even supposed to see it. Maybe they anticipated people peeking.

Anyways, the ahi tuna tostada was so delicious! The tuna was perfect and the avocado was so smooth and fresh. Since I did peek, I did take off the red pepper on top. I was afraid it would be too spicy for me.

For the third dish, the waitress once again told me what it was when she set it down in front of me. I’m like 92% sure I heard the event organizer mention to her immediately after that they were supposed to be mysteries, and then she never said what any other dish was after that, so. Alas, I knew this one was a potato taco, so I looked again! I know, I’m the worst!

If I hadn’t looked, I would’ve had no idea that there was an egg in this thing. It really just tasted like a corn tortilla and nacho cheese. I honestly thought that the thick yellow sauce was nacho cheese, and I heard the table next to me discuss how it tasted like nacho cheese, as well. I like potatoes, and I like egg, but this dish was my least favorite of the night. I was unimpressed with this one.

Okay, this fourth dish was the first one I ate without looking. I did it! Finally. And it was harder than I expected. I’ve never been so worried about spilling food on myself before. Also, it had a stick sticking out of it, so I picked it up and ate it right off the stick.

So, going in blind, the first thing I tasted was plantain, and then a lot of guacamole.

This one was a yummy little bite! I enjoyed it, but honestly it mostly just tasted like I took a big bite of guacamole. But that’s okay because I love guac.

Upon eating this fifth course, I immediately knew it was seafood, but I couldn’t place what kind of seafood it was. My first thought was crab, but I knew that wasn’t right. It ended up being octopus, which is certainly not my favorite type of seafood, but this was pretty decent. It wasn’t mind blowing, and the octopus was a little tough to chew (as octopus always is (part of why I tend to not like it much)). It wasn’t bad or anything, but this one was pretty forgettable, and I think its position as number five makes perfect sense.

For the sixth course, we had another taco!

I could tell this taco had beef in it, but I didn’t realize it was Angus steak until they told us. As with the other taco, the flavor of the corn tortilla was quite powerful, and takes up most of the flavor profile. It was kind of basic. Another non-stellar course, but it was fine enough.

Back at it with another tostada!

Even though I wasn’t looking, I could tell this one was a tostada because it felt the same to hold and everything as the tuna tostada. So I at least knew how to go about eating this one. I knew right away it was shrimp, and I thought the tostada was topped with ceviche. Holy moly it was so good! The shrimp was perfect, the mango was flavorful, the tostada was nice and crunchy, everything worked so well together and made for some truly excellent bites. Plus, I love shrimp. It only makes sense that this ended up being my favorite course. I would eat so many of these. So many.

For the last of the savory courses, we had another taco.

This taco smelled and tasted very funky to me. Like, off, almost. I realized that the funkiness seemed a lot like sheep’s milk cheese, and looking at the photo I feel like that’s definitely what the white crumbled cheese has to be. I honestly didn’t care for this one much, but I did like the pomegranate. It was my second least favorite overall, and it’s unfortunate that it ended up being the last savory dish.

Thank goodness dessert was so dang good!

Not only do I love panna cotta, but it was passion fruit flavored, and the whole bottom portion was some seriously yummy chocolate. The brittle was good, and provided some much needed texture to an otherwise ultra creamy dessert. The amount they provided was absolutely perfect, a sweet send off to end the meal. I loved this dessert.

Alright, so let’s talk overall price/value/thoughts and all that good stuff. For all nine courses plus the welcome cocktail, the ticket was one hundred and ten dollars, gratuity included. I would say that at this price point, it is worth it, but it cut it close for me. I can see how this could be seen as too expensive for such small courses, even if there is nine of them.

However, considering it included a welcome cocktail and gratuity, plus the novelty factor of it, plus a specially curated menu made by the chef, it leans towards worth it for me. Again, definitely pricey, but it was a good experience, and fun to tell your friends about (or to post about).

When it comes to ranking the food, I would probably go with: seven (shrimp tostada), nine (panna cotta), one (soup shot), two (tuna tostada), four (plantain), five (octopus), six (steak taco), and a tie for last between three (potato taco) and eight (pork belly taco).

So, was “dining in the dark” better than regular dining? I would say not really. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I think I would’ve enjoyed these courses just as much had I been able to see them (discounting the couple I did actually see). It was fun enough, but not like mind-blowingly amazing or anything. However, I do think it would’ve been more fun to do it with some friends. Maybe the social aspect of it would’ve made it more interesting and less just me eating by myself with my eyes closed.

I think there is certainly something to be said about the food you eat being a surprise, but I’m not totally sure about the execution of it. I like the idea in concept, at least. And again, I did enjoy it! I just think I might stick with regular eating for a while.

Which course looks the best to you? Have you ever dined in the dark before? Would you try this kind of event? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!


12 Comments on “A Review Of “Dining In The Dark” At Little Llama Peruvian Tacos”

  1. Hey Athena,

    What’s the old saying? “You eat with your eyes first!” All of the food looked really fresh and flavorful. I’m a pork belly fan and l’m bummed it ranked so low! The blindfold doesn’t appeal to me much. Enjoy LA, have fun!

  2. I find eating alone in restaurants difficult, and the fancier the restaurant the harder it is for me. Also, the less familiar the setting, the harder it is. So I think you are very brave to be able to not only dine alone in a strange city, but to blindfold yourself while doing it! Keep up this spirit of exploration!

  3. I was really hoping you’d eaten the pickled Fresnos when I saw the description, but then you mentioned and I remembered your aversion to hot chilis. There is a trick, and that is milk. Milk unbinds the capsaicin of the chili from your taste receptors in your tongue, and shuts down the heat really quick. I’ve seen it in action, it’s amazing!

    The problem with squid is it needs to be cooked hot and fast, i.e. quick sear, or low and slow. Almost any other cooking method causes the fiber to seize up and makes to chewy like that. I’ve been lucky to have lots of good squid in my time. I think deep-fried breaded calamari works well because the breading insulates it from the heat a bit and the fibers don’t lock-up.

    Sounds like you had a very good time.

  4. I actually tried eating in the dark in Switzerland (Zurich) and it was great.
    The concept was a bit different though:
    you were actually sitting in a pitch dark restaurant and all waiters were blind, so they didn‘t mind about the darkness.
    You would go in choosing a preference of meat or fish or vegetarian food, without knowing the exact menu.
    It was absolutely gorgeous!
    If you ever have the chance to go to a dinner in the dark that actually IS in the dark, I recommend you try it again.

  5. Athena, never feel bad about being a solo diner. I spent years traveling for work and therefore was a solo diner at restaurants. Often just the restaurant close to the hotel. And occasionally a fancy restaurant that I wanted to try.

    Even now I am usually a solo diner on the nights I don’t eat at home. I have friends in town but they aren’t always free to meet me for lunch or dinner. So I go to one of the restaurants I enjoy and have a nice dinner. Alone.

    In some ways I enjoy solo dining more than meals with others. When alone I can focus on the food more. On the other hand, dining alone is lonely. I miss the conversations I’d have with friends.

    If the restaurant has a bar ask if they serve the full menu there. If they do then consider sitting at the bar. You get the same food. You are only occupying a single seat instead of tying up a 2 top or 4 top. And, you aren’t eating alone at the bar. There will be other people sitting at the bar, many of the will be solo diners.

  6. I love your willingness to go out and try something you’ve never done before, on your own. I think the price for this experience was pretty reasonable, considering there were nine different things, a cocktail, and this included the tax and tip. My only complaint would have been that the courses were all so similar. I love a tasting menu, but I like it to have a lot of variety and a sense of progression. I agree that the dining in the dark experience would have been a lot more fun if you had people to talk it over with.

    I also think Daniel has a great idea to eat at the bar when you’re dining alone! I’ve done this multiple times and it’s usually fun. You get to watch the bartender, or chat with them if they’re not busy, and you have your back to the crowd so you don’t feel like a lot of people are looking at you. Or you’re not aware of it, if you know what I mean.

  7. Look, I can drop food on my shirt in broad daylight. I don’t need to try and eat in the dark. I guess I wouldn’t mind trying the mystery of only being told what it was after I’d eaten it, unblindfolded.

  8. Tuna 🍣 tostada looks great. I had something similar at the rotating lounge on top of The Bonaventure recently and it was SO good 😋

  9. I have food allergies, so I would definitely be wary of surprise meals unless I was able to specify these in advance. It sounds like a fun adventure otherwise, although I would probably also enjoy it more if I was with a friend or friends to process and share the experience. I’m enjoying your experience vicariously, though.

  10. I definitely wouldn’t do dark dining at that restaurant since I am vegetarian and also allergic to bananas. I would not be happy to be told after the fact that I had just eaten plantain.

    The dishes on the dark dining menu were artistically presented in a way that emphasizes color and placement. Why? For an event like this the chef should focus on flavors and textures rather than visual effects. Also, everything should be very easy to eat. Pretty much everything should be either drinkable or an obvious finger food. I can’t believe they chose to serve a bunch of precariously stacked foods with drippy sauces to blindfolded customers.

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