For ten months, Phuket "Cake" Thongsodchareondee was running Gaijin Izakaya without proper permits. It wasn't his fault, he says.
His landlord, Bogdan Nicolae, who leased the building on North Miami Avenue and for a short while operated the now-closed restaurant the Gang, never transferred the operating licenses to Cake. Nevertheless, the chef continued paying $10,000 a month in rent plus $1,500 per month for a liquor license he never actually had.
"We were calling [Nicolae] every day," he says. "We tried to go to the city to get our permit but couldn't. The police were coming every week threatening to put my waiters in jail."
He told the city to reach out to Nicolae regarding some of the permits, and when it did, he learned his landlord claimed Cake wasn't even renting the space.
Finally, two weeks ago, the fees and fines became unbearable, and after one final plea to Nicolae, who didn't respond to New Times' requests for comment after returning to his native Romania since the Gang shuttered, Cake and his crew decided to call it quits.
"At night after service, we tried to remove as much of our equipment as we could," Cake says. "When we came back the next day in the morning, someone had changed the locks."
During Gaijin's brief lifespan, one of the restaurant's greatest contributions to midtown Miami was its omakase menu offering a bevy of aged and local fishes served piece by piece. While you can now get your fix at the recently opened Hiden inside the Taco Stand or Myumi in 1-800-Lucky, Cake is now focused again on what he does best at his original spot on Biscayne Boulevard on the Upper Eastside.
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"I'm going to start doing more breakfasts and late-night," he says. The plan is to soon operate from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. and serve congees and buns. A recent recipe he's been testing is a steamed bread filled with fatty beef, scallions, sesame, and salted duck egg yolks and served with house-made sriracha.
During the day and into the night, Cake will offer the mind-boggling mix of powerful flavors for which he became known in 2014.
"It's going to be drinking food, a lot of things you find on the street in Thailand," he says. "I'm going to do fish-head soup."