Earlier this summer, Jenkins and I got together with his brother and a bunch of his cousins to have dinner at 12b. There was quite a lot of hype surrounding 12b a while back due to it being one of Vancouver’s earlier underground kitchens, of which there are several which have popped up around the city since. One thing about 12b is that because there is only one table and one sitting each evening, you are required to “book out” the place with 8-12 of your friends. I wasn’t sure who would be willing to spend an evening of eating at a higher price point (recommended fee is $65/person) so when Jenkins’ cousins brought up the fact that they wanted to try it out, I was quite happy to be with likeminded company.
After arriving at Chef Todd’s apartment 12b “somewhere” in Vancouver, the 12 of us mingled around the apartment and surveyed the artwork that was hanging in each of the rooms and in the hallway. We also checked out the wines that each of us had brought and figured out what our plan of attack would be that evening. Shortly afterwards, the first course arrived, a albacore niçoise salad. The albacore tuna was perfectly seared on the outside and was very fresh and flavourful. It had the perfect texture, retaining its firmness slightly and not being mushy at all. I also enjoyed the deconstructed veggies in this salad, especially the roasted cherry tomato and the crispy yet fluffy potato pieces. It was simply seasoned but was a great start to our meal.
Next came a herb crusted salmon with asparagus, morrels, garbanzo beans, and crème fraiche. I was a bit skeptical because the salmon seamed a bit pale when it arrived but it was actually packed full of flavour from the herbs and very moist. The morrels had a lot of great mushroom-y flavour to them and the crème fraiche provided just the right amount of slight tang.
The thyme roast quail with maple jus, red quinoa, corn, yam, and smoked bacon was one of my favourite dishes of the evening. The quail was nicely roasted and the thyme and maple jus went together very well without the maple syrup being too overwhelming. The veggies were also perfectly roasted and the quinoa added a slight hint of crunch while the bacon added a nice smoky flavour.
The duck breast with wild rice, saffron-infused cous cous with pomegranite braised cabage and pesto zucchini was another delicious dish. The Israeli cous cous was quite large and the chef had made the zucchini the same size as the cous cous and pomegranite seeds. It was quite interesting to eat these together with the juicy duck breast.
I was starting to get quite full by this time so I guess it was a good thing that there were only two dishes left! The grilled venison with blueberry jus, parsnip purée, artichoke, and Wu-Tang honey-glazed carrots was our last savoury dish of the evening. Tough venison is never any fun to eat and I’m happy to say that the grilled venison at 12b was quite moist but still very flavourful. The sweet roasted veggies went quite well with the blueberry jus and you would have thought this dish overall would have been too sweet but it turned out quite nicely. I especially enjoyed the parsnip purée actually and I think I may try to make it at home.
And finally, it was on to dessert. The mango sorbet with anise panna cotta, raspberry coulis, and rosewater caramel macaron was quite unique and interesting. The mango sorbet was actually packed full of flavour and its sweetness was offset by the tanginess of the raspberry coulis. I felt that the panna cotta was a bit lumpy and had less anise flavour than I would have liked though. The large caramel macaron was definitely a hit though and I liked how its crispy exterior gave way to a sweet interior that was full of coconut flavour.
We all quite enjoyed our dinner at 12b. It was definitely an interesting experience and I was super impressed by how Chef Todd was able to juggle cooking and serving as a one-man show. I liked how each of the dishes we had were all very different from one another and yet, they all complemented each other quite well. There were also a few awkward moments just because we weren’t sure what we should do next at times but Chef Todd was fairly patient with us. However, now that I’ve been exposed to the world of underground kitchens (finally!), I can’t wait to try my next one!
For reservations, email Todd at email@example.com
You also bring your own alcohol (and as much as you’d like!)
Service: [rating:2.5] although I must say that it’s difficult for Chef Todd to be doing everything at once so this may seem a bit unfair