Chef Montgomery Lau has found a new culinary home behind the stoves at Gastown’s Secret Location. This unique “tasting room” is one half of the enterprise, which includes an exclusive boutique stocked with eclectic brands.
Lau, who was most recently at Vancouver’s Shangri-La Hotel at Market by Jean-Georges, is stepping into Secret Location with the goal to continue to bring guests an exciting dining experience that often turns the expected on its head.
Overall, Lau says he is creating “food that is unique to the [Secret Location] brand.” Lau adds that “each piece is unique and special,” but that doesn’t mean the food is unapproachable.
At lunchtime, Lau’s menu includes riffs on familiar flavour combinations and classic dishes. “We’re not trying to educate people, we’re giving them what they want,” Lau explains. Those dishes include pasta dishes, lighter salads, and even their Secret Burger, the latter of which can include high-end add-ons like foie gras or truffle.
A dish like the Chilled Poached Scallop veers far left of the expected, but hits all the right notes of sweet, bright, fresh, and creamy, thanks to the supple texture of the cold scallops, the dots of mayo, the briny konbu (kelp), and funky black garlic.
Still, diners who order the BLT are going to find that it’s an innovative take on the diner delight. “We brine our own bacon and smoke it all in house, smoke our own oil to make our own mayo,” explains Lau. “There are a lot of fine touches that go into the product. It’s a familiar product, but at the same time it’s elevated.”
Come dinner time, the dishes reflect that same elevation, with some carry-over from the midday menu. The Olive Oil Poached Halibut is sumptuously tender, showcasing the seasonal fish to its best and brightest potential. Your eyes may deceive you at dessert, when a dish like Mint Chocolate Wilderness appears; this trompe l’oeil plate looks like rocks and moss on the forest floor, but actually exemplifies those tried-and-true taste companions, mint and chocolate.
Guests can also opt to indulge in a six-course tasting menu so as to experience numerous dishes and Lau’s exciting approach to fresh, seasonal, and west coast ingredients.
Complimenting the posh setting and interesting food are craft cocktails and adventurous wine pairings done with great attention to tasting details. While Secret Location may not be on your every day map of where to eat, it’s a fun destination for a special occasion or when the every day just won’t do.
Address: 1 Water Street, Gastown