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. 🙂