12B works on a simple premise: organize a bunch of friends for a dinner party, scrape together $65 a head for a six course dinner, and pray that you know someone that can get a booking. That’s in two respects: (a) as a restaurant without any of the proper licenses or permits, Chef Todd, owner and proprietor, necessarily needs to know his clientele, and (b) the guy’s booked solid for months (at least for weekends).
That premise has been replicated and repeated by other chefs in town and elsewhere for the past few years, indicative of either an emerging new business model, a booming fad, or both. Ask Chef Todd and he’d probably disagree: my assumption is that he simply likes to work from home, and telecommuting isn’t an option.
The first course was a cream of asparagus soup with white wine and truffles “four ways” (truffle salt, oil, and, uh, a couple of other preparations). I worried at first that this would be far too filling with five courses to go, but the soup was surprisingly light.
This was followed with halibut seared in brown butter, served on a jardinière brunoise and quinoa, with a fennel, orange and poppyseed salad on the side. The brunoise also had bits of smoked bacon in it, which was probably more of a highlight than the halibut itself.
The next course started a wave of beloved meats. Duck breast was rubbed with za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that tied a plate full of regional flavours. Berkshire pork came with spaetzle, cabbage and also a couple of apple slices flavoured with birch syrup, with a beer stein being the only missing element. Venison shortloin was served with blueberry jus, baby potatoes, minty peas and carrots. Each was great, though the first two tied together more thoroughly.
(While the apples were enough to make the pork dish my favourite, the carrots cut into Wu Tang logos made the venison dish the most entertaining. Where else can you eat in town while listening to Jeru the Damaja?)
The night ended with two ice creams (star anise and pistachio), shortbreads and glazed pecans. The pistachio ice cream was almost savoury, or at least not sweetened enough, which, after a few bites, seemed to be the point.
At that point, a guest book passes around, a subtle hint that the $65 ‘donation’ is due. For six courses, that’s a real steal, particularly when a similar dinner of this calibre at a proper restaurant would probably cost twice as much. After serving food like this for a couple of years, there’s a reason why 12B ain’t much of a secret anymore.
(Sorry, no address)