Tom Madrecki is moving up in the culinary world. The publicist and frequent chef, who runs the semi-underground Chez le Commis supper club from his Clarendon one-bedroom, is set to launch a (fully legal) pop-up wine bar in the Union Kitchen parking lot on September 29. While reservations for the 12-person living room dinners are tough to snag, the outdoor Vin de Chez will be open to the public and primed for around 40 guests from 2 to 9 PM.
The idea for the al fresco wine bar came about through Madrecki’s stints cooking in France and Denmark, where he staged in the notable kitchens of Le Chateaubriand and Noma. While in Copenhagen he frequented a temporary watering hole set up under one of the city’s major bridges by a well-known wine importer. Vin de Chez is meant to be similar, especially when it comes to offering unusual wines. Madrecki says he built the collection around his own taste, translating to a list that’s almost entirely made up of biodynamic and natural old-world varietals, some of which he’s importing directly from France (meaning, wine geeks, that you can finally taste that bottle of Sebastien Riffault Skeveldra Sancerre).
As for the menu, don’t expect your ubiquitous charcuterie boards and crostini. Though the setting will be casual, many of the dishes will reflect the ambitious flavor pairings of the supper club. You might snack on Madrecki’s riff on a meat and cheese plate—here Fourme d’Ambert blue cheese, Vietnamese cured pork, and basil-infused pickles—or fresh bread with house-made butter. Larger shareable plates include rockfish with celery ceviche and lamb with trumpet mushrooms. Reservations aren’t required for the communal wine bar, but will be for certain dishes that contain pricey ingredients and/or take considerable time to prepare. A whole octopus for four, braised in herbed vinegar and then quick-roasted to caramelize the flesh, requires three days’ notice; squab aged for a week in a temperature- and moisture-controlled environment (in Madrecki’s case, a “college-style mini fridge that’s really clean”) requires a 14-day preorder. Fortunately, one of my personal favorites from Chez le Commis is available anytime: homemade popcorn ice cream with a rich brown sugar caramel sauce and a dusting of cheddar powder, basically the best of the caramel and cheddar popcorn worlds combined.
Madrecki works with an electric stovetop and limited counter space for Chez le Commis, and will similarly make do with the space he has at Vin de Chez—in other words, it’s not your typical professional setup. The outdoor cooking station will boast induction burners, a convection oven, and a plancha (“or a pancake skillet”). Part of the fun of the supper club is watching adventurous dishes emerge from such a pedestrian setting, though the kitchen will soon change. Madrecki says he’s moving from Clarendon to the District come March, and may slightly alter the format of the dinners. “There will be more of a focus on high-quality ingredients and blowing people out of the water,” he says.
As for Vin de Chez, reservations are now available through the website. Stay tuned for an additional pop-up in October, weather pending, and then on a semi-regular basis in spring 2014.