“This next course is served in an ashtray, but I promise it’s clean,” Irvin van Oordt tells 10 diners during a recent meal at Vagabond DC, his semi-monthly supper club.
He goes on to explain that the inspiration for the dish — a smear of Peruvian syrup from black carob trees sprinkled with pulverized banana peels — comes from his childhood, when he would lick things on the floor.
OK, so van Oordt’s cooking isn’t for everybody.
But here’s who it is for: the culinary-curious looking for a break from the usual wine-and-dine grind.
“I can’t compete with beautiful chairs and the manpower of a restaurant,” van Oordt says of the experimental pop-up he’s been hosting out of a shared office space. “It’s just me and my sous chef, and we have to create an experience. We want you to leave saying, ‘That was an amazing dinner’ and tell a friend about it.”
Van Oordt, who went to culinary school in Peru and cooked throughout the country as well as in the United Kingdom and Chile, designs Vagabond’s menus to reflect stamps on his passport. The most recent bill (which took him three months to conceive) included a dish called “rice flake,” inspired by a snowy day he experienced in Stockholm, and the “spring dashi” palate cleanser, influenced by a vacation in Kyoto, Japan.
Stateside, van Oordt has cooked in D.C. at The Source, Rogue 24 and Suna, the now-shuttered restaurant from Komi alum Johnny Spero. When he’s not focusing on Vagabond DC, van Oordt is working at Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Union Market.
Despite his impressive pedigree, van Oordt, 25, is still reluctant to call himself a chef. “When I introduce myself to people, I tell them I’m the dishwasher,” he says. “There are too many chefs out there. There’s not enough badass cooks.”
Vagabond DC; $85; vagabondc.com
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