Sort of Secret Supper Club: The Vagrancy Project

It’s often said that the hottest Los Angeles bars don’t have signs out front. But one of the best restaurants we’ve come across doesn’t even have a restaurant.

With pop-up eateries on the rise, more chefs are setting up shop without actual shops. Our newest favorite? The just-launched Vagrancy Project. This secret-ish L.A. supper club is helmed by young chef Miles Thompson, who manages to turn out best-thing-I-ever-ate-caliber meals within the bounds of his modest, cozy Hollywood Hills apartment. Seated at one long table, a dozen diners all ask each other, “How did you find out about this?”

Miles, who is sharp and contemplative beyond his 23 years, began cooking professionally when he was 15, but then took a detour into the world of acting. (You might recognize him from Miranda July’s movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know. We’ll let you YouTube it.)

Miles returned to his love of cooking by answering an ad for a position at Nobu Los Angeles, recalling that his interview involved a fair amount of finesse as a “bullshit artist.”

“That was my last great acting job,” he says, laughing.

He went on to be the lead line cook at Nobu Los Angeles, then moved to Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s highly acclaimed restaurant, Animal. Eventually he wound up as executive sous chef at Animal’s sister restaurant, Son of a Gun. But the tug of creating his own menu finally led him to launch Vagrancy Project as a supper club on February 11.

Equally down-home and elegant, the donation-based dining event serves up a tasting menu of small, meticulously arranged plates. The nine-course meal we devoured featured stunning produce, the city’s highest-quality meats and seafood, and vibrant flavors like citrus paired with habanero and yogurt. It’s been weeks, and we find ourselves daydreaming of those dishes daily. Simply put: one of the best meals of our lives. A few sample courses:

Yogurt + ceviche: dashi-braised octopus, Maryland white shrimp, Boston sweet shrimp, Hokkaido scallop dressed with Meyer lemon and lime juice, red onion, habanero. Garnished with Kochukaru (Korean chili) powder and oil, parsley and Meyer lemon.

Anago: Sea eel, pan-fried in clarified butter, served with an agnolotti of shrimp mousse, a shellfish nage, two raw Boston sweet shrimp and artichoke Barigoule. Garnished with a poached baby red onion.

Rabbit: A poached rabbit sausage cured with nutmeg, salt and shallot, served in a chicken liver beurre blanc made from fermented cider, rabbit stock, butter, shallot, tarragon vinegar, and finally mounted with chicken liver mousse. The sauce also featured golden raisins plumped in Jasmine tea brewed in Allagash White Ale. Garnished with Chinese mustard greens, verano radicchio, red frill mustard, rapini flowers and oven-dried broccoli.

Striped bass: Slow-roasted wild striped bass, served with a bone marrow Bordelaise gelee and concentrated Nantes carrots, braised celery, red wine-pickled shallots, raw celery leaves, raw shallots, carrot juice, carrot tops, and beets pickled in veal stock and tangerine juice. Garnished with thyme.

Pork: Pork belly cured for 36 hours, steamed and deep-fried for two different timings to yield different textures. Pea tendrils creamed with creme fraiche and tosazu (a sauce made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and bonito flakes) and Chardonnay-pickled radishes. Garnished with raw pea tendrils, toasted nori and pork cracklings.

Dessert: a whipped, deconstructed cheesecake that will haunt us with longing until we die.

Suggested donation for Thompson’s nine-course meals are $65; upcoming Los Angeles dates are March 16, 20, 23, 30 and 31.

How does one score an invite? Keep up with the brand-new Vagrancy Project on Tumblr, Twitter or Facebook, and email thevagrancyproject@gmail.com to book a seat and get the secret address.

What’s next for Miles? “Down the line, I’d like to open a restaurant called Cottage. I’d like it to be small: nice, homey and safe. Like a bed and breakfast you would find in Wine Country, but in Los Angeles.”

“But for now with the Vagrancy Project,” he says, “we’re searching for our home. We’re traveling from place to place with a dream.”

Would you shell out to go to a supper club in a chef's home?
Keep Reading

Next Up

Meatless Monday: Lighter Fall Harvest Supper

Mark Bittman’s Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Dressing is light but comforting. Tossed with spicy dressing and hearty black beans, you’ve got yourself a hearty, soul-soothing meal in under an hour-- no heavy cream or butter required.

The Donatella Project

Restaurateur Donatella Arpaia is giving viewers a peek of her hectic restaurant consulting life in Cooking Channel’s new special, The Donatella Project.

Hump Day Snack: A Skittles Sorting Machine

If you have a bizarre proclivity for just one specific color of Skittles, you either have to spend precious seconds sorting through the contents of one of those red bags, or you can let a machine sort them for you.

Symon's Suppers

Tune in to Cooking Channel's new show Symon's Suppers as host Chef Michael Symon shares his favorite recipes for great food at home.

Secrets to Better Chili

Making a tasty pot a chili from scratch is no easy task. Unless you know a few secrets from the pros.

Super Food Nerds: Make Hard Apple Cider from Scratch (Sort Of)

Cooking Channel's Super Food Nerds learn how to make hard apple cider from store-bought apple cider with a few ingredients and some patience. Find out how.

On TV

Donut Showdown

7:30am | 6:30c

Donut Showdown

8:30am | 7:30c

Sugar Showdown

9:30am | 8:30c

Sugar Showdown

10:30am | 9:30c

Unique Sweets

11am | 10c

Unique Sweets

11:30am | 10:30c

Unique Sweets

12pm | 11c

Unique Sweets

12:30pm | 11:30c

Unique Sweets

1pm | 12c

Unique Sweets

1:30pm | 12:30c

Good Eats

2pm | 1c

Good Eats

2:30pm | 1:30c

Unwrapped

3pm | 2c

Cake Wars

5pm | 4c

Cake Wars

6pm | 5c

Cake Wars

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Cake Wars

8pm | 7c

Cake Wars

9pm | 8c

Cake Wars

10pm | 9c

Extreme Cake Makers

11:30pm | 10:30c

Cake Wars

12am | 11c

Cake Wars

1am | 12c

Cake Wars

2am | 1c

Extreme Cake Makers

3:30am | 2:30c
What's Hot
What's Hot

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

New Episodes Mondays 8|7c

Home for the Holidays

So Much Pretty Food Here