Chef Phuket Thongsodchaveondee, AKA Cake, is partnering with the owner of the Asian-style restaurant the Gang, Bogdan Niculae, on Gaijin Izakaya, a retro Japanese-style gastropub that opens today for lunch, dinner, and late-night dining at the Gang's midtown Miami location.
Before he started his own project, Cake Thai, Thongsodchaveondee worked as a cook under Makoto Okuwa, when he realized his love for preparing Japanese food. After Japanese Market closed, he noticed the lack of the traditional cuisine in Miami. He wants Gaijin to be a true izakaya with the same fun and hip reputation it promises in Japan. Staying true to the concept's authenticity, Gaijin will stay open as late as 3 a.m. on weekends.
In Japanese, gaijin translates to “others," or Westerners, but it can also refer to the menu, which is a departure from Cake Thai's offerings. The Miami ramen ($26), containing miso broth, shrimp fat, mixed seafood, and corn butter, will change upon season; the chef plans to use stone crabs in the fall.
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Other items on the menu include a Japanese-style pancake called okonomiyaki, topped with pork belly and bonito flakes ($13); mapo tofu fries, made with shoestring French fries, tofu, tobanjan, and green onion ($8); and robata skewers of beef heart, turkey gizzard, and Madagascar prawns ($6 to $14 for two skewers). Classic dishes such as donburi (rice bowls), tempura, teriyaki, mixed seaweed salad, and sushi will also be available.
A small sushi bar, located where the Gang's cocktail bar once stood, seats five. In the coming weeks, an omakase series will be announced where guest chefs will take over as sushi chef for the evening. As of now, chef "Shine-San" of Yakko-San and chef Yoshitaka Migita of Katsuya South Beach are confirmed.
By Japanese standards, an izakaya wouldn’t be authentic if no drinking were involved. At Gaijin, the beverage program will be finalized by the end of next week. It will offer plenty of sake, Japanese beers, craft beer, wine, and cocktails.
Gaijin. 3500 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-570-9430; thegangmiami.com. Monday through Wednesday noon to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday noon to 3 a.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.