Address: It’s a secret!!!
Brief Description: A concept in dining that has started to become extremely popular all over the world (particularly in this economic climate) is that of the underground, or guerrilla, restaurant. Proving once again that it is a big player on the world food scene, Vancouver already has an underground restaurant to call its own and it goes by the name of 12B.
It has taken me some time to write this review and the reason for that is that I was unsure if I wanted to share this precious dining experience with too many people. As a foodie, this is the kind of place that I want to treasure and keep secret for as long as I can. However, I have set my greediness aside and I feel that it is now time to share…
Late last year, I had been partaking in one of my favourite past-times, foodie magazine reading, when I came across a very interesting (and drool-inducing) article on underground restaurants or guerrilla restaurants, as they are also known. I soon learnt that an underground restaurant is basically a restaurant that flies below the radar of the necessary authorities by being run from inside a chef’s home. This concept aids the chef in many ways; no rent overheads for a fancy restaurant, no liquor licences to have approved, no staffing costs and no business paperwork. All of which are very obvious incentives. However, having their own restaurant also allows the chef to have creative freedom in the kitchen by not having to follow a strict nightly menu and by being able to use fresh, seasonal ingredients. The diner gets rewarded by having an affordable and comfortable gourmet experience. Think of a multi-course dinner party with all of your friends but without the stress of cleaning or cooking. Yes…pure bliss.
Last October, on a cold fall evening, nine friends and I arrived at 12B, Chef Todd’s very funky and character-saturated apartment, for our initiation into the underground restaurant scene. We were welcomed inside and introduced ourselves to Todd before he returned to his retro-style kitchen, where he was busy preparing our meal. This gave us the opportunity to take a peek around our “restaurant” for the night. Todd’s apartment was filled with interesting furniture pieces, the walls were adorned with eclectic art and the dining room was filled with a large picnic-like table, which allowed conversations to easily flow. The best part was that it was all ours…for the night, anyway.
Todd was a wonderful host and extremely easy-going; you bring your own alcohol, your own music and, if you are so inclined, he doesn’t mind if you smoke (whatever) in the apartment. Try to find a restaurant in town that is that flexible! For most of the evening, Todd left us to ourselves and really only made himself known at the beginning of the evening, when he took aside the guests who had special food requirements, and when serving us each course.
Everybody chatted and sipped on drinks until Todd delivered our first course; a warming asparagus cream soup. He served the dish with a brief description and then quickly disappeared back into the kitchen, only to resurface a short time later to pick up the dirty dishes.
The next course, an innovative scallop and quail egg salad, was served soon after another mingling session. This was a really interesting dish and one that worked well together despite my initial concern with the combination of the two main ingredients. New potatoes, steamed beans and cherry tomatoes rounded off the dish nicely. Once again, Todd swooped in to clear away the dishes after we had scrapped our plates clean.
By this stage, everyone was already impressed with the standard of food that was coming out of the kitchen and we hadn’t even got to the third course yet!
Our third course was ravioli with market-fresh chanterelle mushrooms and a marinated mozzarella and vegetable medley. I particuarly liked this dish. The fact that Todd has sourced chanterelle’s, a fall speciality, showed the extra effort that he put into the meal.
This was soon followed by the fourth course; chicken paprika, served with creamy polenta and lightly steamed carrots. The courses just seemed to be continually getting better!
Our fifth course was a juicy steak, dressed in a rich sauce and topped with slices of fried potato. Mmmmmm!! Perfect for a cold night and went great with the wine that we had brought.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the meal concluded with a home-made cookie and ice-cream – I forget now what the flavour of ice-cream was but what does remain with me was how delectable it was. Without having to do dishes or tidy up, there was nothing more for us to do except to move in to the lounge room to continue drinking until about 1am.
Final Thoughts: Each course was incredible – I couldn’t find fault with any of them. In particular, what I enjoyed the most about the food was that you didn’t know what was coming out of the kitchen next. Your dining experience was at the mercy of Chef Todd, who certainly proved that he knows his stuff. All of the meals were a perfectly adequate amount – not too big and not too small. And, so, although it was a 6 course meal I didn’t walk out completely stuffed. The ease and comfort of the evening was also an added bonus – there was no bill to fight over, no taxes or drink bill to work out and no other diners to contend with. Everyone just gave Todd their $50 (plus tip) and that was the end of that.
It is for reasons such as underground restaurants that I love being a foodie. New and interesting ways to enjoy food are continually popping up and I, for one, love being ready for the next big thing. If you can track down the details for 12B, I highly recommend it for a night in.