"Probably not reopening as Cake Thai," restaurateur Javier Ramirez said in a text message. "We will be making a decision [as to the future of the space] this week."
The closure comes less than a year after Phuket Thongsodchareondee, along with partners Ramirez and Leo Monterrey, opened the bright-orange spot on the north end of NW Second Avenue in Wynwood. At the time, it was to be a showcase for the traditional southern Thai cuisine that Thongsodchareondee — who goes by the nickname Cake — was cooking at his Upper Eastside spot.
Yet as is too often the case between chefs and owners in Miami, fissures seemed to develop in the relationship. One supplier said he witnessed disagreements between Ramirez and Cake, who worked his way up in Miami at Makoto in Bal Harbour Shops. At Cake Thai, there was kaprao moo krob, featuring ground pork belly or duck depending upon the night, which is quickly sautéed in a salty amalgam of chili and garlic. Jiggly flat rice noodles combined with chicken thigh, bits of briny cuttlefish, salted cabbage, and house-made sriracha sauce to fill out the dish he calls kua gai. And Cake's green curry, which the menu listed as gaeng keaw wan nuea ayutthaya, features a mound of fork-tender short ribs doused in a pungent forest-green sauce that also clings to snappy Thai eggplants and a ginger-like tuber called finger root.
"In the beginning, things were very romantic until the opening," Ramirez said.
Several weeks ago, Cake appeared to altogether leave the restaurant that bore his name in favor of a Japanese izakaya concept called Gaijin by Cake, situated a few blocks away in the space once housed by the Gang Miami.
Citing advice from attorneys, Cake declined to comment.
Ramirez and Monterrey said the chef, who owns a minority stake in the restaurant, would stay on in a kind of consulting role. Yet some of the kitchen and waitstaff from Cake now work at Gaijin, which seemed to leave the former eatery short of institutional knowledge and unable to execute the traditional Thai that so deftly balanced sweet, salty, sour, and spicy. A month later, Cake seems to be at his izakaya full time while the Wynwood restaurant bearing his name sits dark on a busy weekend.
The chef's original Cake Thai Kitchen, located on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 79th Street, remains open, and plans to open a Cake Thai in the rising Little River food hall the Citadel are still on track, according to developer Thomas Conway.