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12B Underground Restaurant – November ’09 Dinner

9 Dec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 was with much anticipation that I recently returned to 12B, the underground restaurant that slyly operates out of Chef Todd’s eccentric apartment. It was almost a year to the day that I had made my first visit “underground” and the formula remains unchanged from my last review. You, the diner, gather a group of your good friends together (anywhere from 6 to 12 people), turn up at Todd’s apartment clasping bottles of booze and $50 (+tip) and sit back and enjoy one of the best dinner parties that you could hope for. Pretty simple, huh?

On the evening that we went, the alcohol flowed freely all night and the dinner was so impressive that not even a morsel of food was left on any of the plates as they returned to the kitchen. The 6 course dinner knocked everyone’s socks off and even the vegetarians walked away from the evening reminiscing about the dishes. Todd stuck with his usual format of small, innovative dishes with ingredients that on first impression have you questioning “Huh?” but leave you scraping your plate clean, gushing “Mmmmm!” and “Ohhhh…”

The first dish of the night was a lemongrass and tofu soup. I could smell the spicy aroma of the soup from the moment that we walked in and it tantalized my senses until well after I had devoured it. The smell was enticing and the flavours were complex, with a touch of heat.

The second course was a beet salad with goats cheese. This was my least favourite of all of our dishes and yet it was still good.

Quail in sour cherry jus with French beans, yam mash, and wild rice was the third dish of the evening. This dish got a hearty round of “Mmmmm’s!” from a very satisfied group of meat-eaters. The vegetarians in our group were dining on halibut dressed with a tarragon sauce, which was then finished with lentils and burnt grapefruit. I managed to sneak a taste of it and was quite impressed.

In addition to being visually stunning, the duck breast anaise with cilantro, watercress and orange salad packed a pretty big flavour punch. The tanginess from the orange and the cilantro paired well with the smooth flavour of the tender duck. The vegetarians (or have not’s as Todd calls them) raved about the asparagus and stilton quiche with fennel that they were eating. My friend said that she was still thinking about the quiche when I spoke to her a few days later.

Although the duck and quail were both really good, I was patiently waiting for some red meat and it finally got delivered in the form of Winterale braised beef shortribs, parsnip puree and chanterelles. The beef fell away from the bone with very little persuasion and the flavour was simply delightful. This was easily my favourite dish of the night. The “have not’s” got a simple, but tasty, deconstructed yam gnocchi puttanesca.

And finally, to top the evening off, we finished with a carrot and hazelnut cake with lemon custard cassis, vanilla sauce and butternut squash ice-cream.

Once the meal was finished, we spent about another hour or so enjoying a few too many libations, chatting and signing the guest book. I flicked back through the guestbook just so that I could drool over some of the other menus that Todd has concocted and I am in awe of this man. Sure, he can be a little hard to get to know and he is slightly curt but damn can the man cook! He is adventurous with his dishes and obviously knowledgeable as they all come together just perfectly. Somehow he even managed to trump his efforts from last year’s dinner. Our night was a huge success and all of the guests left raving, which is exactly what you want from a dinner party. That, and someone else to do all the dishes. Oh, that’s right, he did that too. 🙂

12B Underground Restaurant

4 Nov

It has been some time coming but I finally received confirmation today that myself and a group of friends have managed to score a reservation at 12B, the underground restaurant. This is no small feat! I had contacted Todd about a month ago for a reservation but was told that his weekend sittings were booked solid until December. Thankfully, there was a cancellation and so now we will be dining there in just a few weeks. Yay! I am highly anticipating the evening – good food, good booze and great company. Since it has been over a year since my last visit to 12B, I will be sure to provide a review of the evening and hopefully this time I will be able to take better pictures. Is it wrong to enjoy food this much? Nope, didn’t think so!

12B Underground Restaurant

8 Sep

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.

Art inside 12B

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.