Secret Location is a truly magical restaurant, and this blog is going to completely gush about our experience here!
Secret Location is located in Gastown, and there is a clothing store on one side, and a restaurant that looks a lot like a living room on the other (thus “secret location”). It’s very bright with white and blue accents and was totally empty when we arrived for our 6:30 p.m. reservation on a Wednesday night.
As it turned out, the two other tables with reservations just didn’t show up for the night, so it was just David and I, the chefs and the wonderful server and bartender all night. We learned they are very busy on weekends (evenings and brunch), and not so much during the week. The server mused that perhaps Vancouver locals don’t love the Gastown location, or they are just a little intimated by the tasting menu or name. Whatever the reason, it’s a crime that this place isn’t lined up around the block, because it should be the hardest spot to get into in town!
Throughout the evening, we received amazing service and the most incredibly creative dishes were served course after course. Naturally, we chose the tasting menu – and we decided to go all out for premium wine pairings. Together, it was about $200 a person (super reasonable for the brilliance we experienced). We are proud we did what we could to make it worth their while to open on a slow Wednesday night.
We knew we were in for something special right off the bat, with a starter of a Champagne and two types of incredibly fresh bread (black squid ink and a white chive) served with a unique yellow beet puree with basil oil. Each piece of bread had a nice sprinkling of salt on top.
Our two amuse bouche dishes were so original! The first was our favourite – a flax seed cracker with home-made ricotta, served on a fantastic dish that paired perfectly with the Champagne. The second was a halibut skin chip with potato puree and salted cod flesh. It was salty and fishy and not my favourite, but we were both super impressed with the originality of this dish. As we smiled with glee at the beauty of both dishes, the server told us “we are fans of finger food to start around here!” This is the coolest finger food we’ve certainly ever had!
We moved into the first course of a spanish aromatic light white wine, paired with a dish of spring garlic five ways with some shaved egg. What an inspiration! Who would think a dish of garlic would be so gorgeous and so satisfying?? It was truly spring on a plate with flowers and bulbs and a wonderfully smoked and charred garlic stem.
Our second course started with a California naked white wine (50 per cent Viognier) that was deep and buttery with a fantastic gold colour. The dish was a braised octopus and artichoke sauce with fingerling purple potatoes, fresh radish, and buckwheat seeds. It was fresh and tangy and lovely (something I don’t feel every day about octopus).
We moved into more savoury territory with a Cote Du Provence Rose wine, that was less sweet and pink than many rose’s (a good thing in our opinion). The beautiful halibut dish that it accompanied had a wonderful arugula jus with chickpeas, cucumber and black turnip. Chickpeas and halibut? Yeah, apparently that’s a great combination!
Our next dish was a duck breast with the most insanely good rhubarb jam, with a red wine jus. This is the best duck I have ever had (I generally don’t care for it). Perfectly cooked, and the rhubarb jam had a wonderful mix of sweet and tart that cut out the astringency of the rhubarb itself. It also had the best pairing of the night with a red wine from Etna in Sicily with a really unique flavour that comes from grapes grown in volcanic ash. This was likely my favourite dish of the night.
David’s favourite dish was the main course of milk-braised bison, with onion rings, potato pave and corn. It was so perfectly cooked, you didn’t even need a knife for the bison – deeply umami with a Fortissimo La Stella wine from the Okanagan. We have visited that winery in the past, so we had some great reminiscing over this fantastic dish.
Our final dessert courses started with coffee ice cream with a passion fruit foam and a chilli crumble. Like most of the dishes tonight, what really shone through was the creativity of putting seemingly unrelated ingredients together in a truly creative and unique way. It went wonderfully with a dessert wine from Australia that had hints of nuts and apricot. As we lingered over our last sips of wine, we were offered a hazelnut and chocolate ganache with ice cream. Delicious!
We just couldn’t end the night here! We stayed on and moved to the bar where we had fantastic conversation with the lovely bartender and our friendly server. They even changed the colour of the bar to pink for me!
The creativity of the kitchen was matched by the cocktails. I decided for a “Drinking Piece for Orchestra” of aperol, campari, grapefruit juice, orange cream bitters and caramelized lemon. It even came with a Yoko Ono poem I will likely keep forever.
David had two interesting drinks, starting with a BB Sour of Basil Hayden’s bourbon, lemon juice, spiced syrup, Angostura bitters, egg white, and port. It was very interesting, but his favourite was his second choice of a Kumbayah – rosemary infused whisky, smoked honey, lemon and applewood smoke. The presentation of the smoke as the drink was poured was really fun.
This was one of the most wonderful and heavenly gastronomic adventures that David and I have ever experienced! Plus it was really fun and not overly stuffy (that come sometimes come with such originality and dedication to perfection). David made sure to walk over to thank the chef for an extraordinary experience. It was absolutely brilliant and felt intensely special.
If you live in Vancouver, or are visiting, there is no excuse to not seek out Secret Location!