SEMINOLE – Over the past few years, the team behind Abandon Izakaya has built a solid underground clientele for their private chefs’ dinners.
It all started, as most fancy dinner clubs do, with a love of food and hospitality. Owners Mitch Beardsley and Chanse Chanthalansy first met while students at Pinellas Park High School and were longtime friends when they came up with the idea for a series of joint chef’s tables .
The duo began hosting private dinners for friends, family and the occasional savvy foodie. Held at the table of a chef of 12 people, the couple interrupted the accommodation of meals in their respective houses. Menus changed and evolved, but the table was always filled with familiar faces.
It was a slow but steady burn: Beardsley and Chanthalansy had separate careers while dinners became a weekend passion project.
âWe didn’t really make any money – we basically lost money,â Beardsley said. âBut he brought out our ingredients and our style. We have built our own brand this way.
This branding has paid off: last week their dinner concept opened as a real restaurant, Abandon Izakaya.
Tucked behind a McDonald’s in a long, nondescript mall off Starkey Road and Park Boulevard N, the new location may seem modest, but the food that comes out of the kitchen doors is anything but.
Beardsley, 40, is from the Philippines and Chanthalansy, 42, is from Laos. The duo describes their concept as a kind of playground for foodies.
The idea is loosely based on the Japanese izakaya tradition where small snack plates are enjoyed in a social atmosphere with drinks. But despite the name of the restaurant, the menu is not exclusively Japanese. And while there are Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Thai influences on the opening dish list, Beardsley said the shareable street food theme is the overall concept.
âWe are open to anything and everything,â he said. âWe will have street food from Colombia, Brazil, Southeast Asia, Germanyâ¦ wherever we feel a dish is unique and good. Adventure is one of them.
So what’s on the menu now?
Starters and snacks include yakitori chicken skewers ($ 6.95) and pork belly and green onion robatayaki ($ 7.50). The handmade meatballs arrive either filled with pork ($ 7.95) or shrimp ($ 9.95), and customers have a choice of several versions, including pan-fried and served with a creamy garlic sauce. and miso or boiled and topped with a Japanese curry.
The larger plates include a small, eclectic selection ranging from shrimp tacos ($ 9.50) to seared duck breast on celery root puree ($ 18.95). There’s also a bowl of dan dan noodles ($ 14.95), a feature of Sichuan cuisine that is flavored with numbing spices infused with Sichuan peppercorns, mixed with spicy ground beef and Chinese greens. of the season. The ramen ($ 12.95) is made with a combination of pork, chicken, and fish broth and topped with pork belly, bamboo shoots, a candied egg, and green onions. (Ramen and dan dan noodles offer vegetarian options.)
Some items, like the savory and fiery ramen or Szechuan chili oil flavoring the dan dan noodles, are tried and true recipes from the team’s private dinner days. Others, like a Thai-inspired leng saab ($ 16.95), are new creations with an evolving menu. This dish, traditionally made with pork thorn, includes pork ribs boiled in a broth flavored with lemongrass, ginger, galangal and garlic. The ribs arrive stacked in a pool of broth and topped with a spicy green chili sauce.
For starters, the restaurant has opened with a small selection of beers, wines, and sakes, with plans to expand the selection to include cocktails once a license to serve hard liquors is obtained.
Although Beardsley is well versed in grilling and Chanthalansy is trained in classic French cuisine and has worked in several restaurants, neither have experience in restaurant management. But that doesn’t stop them. Because both have jobs outside the company (Chanthalansy takes care of local film projects while Beardsley owns an air conditioning business and works in real estate), the financial aspect of starting a restaurant starting from scratch isn’t that intimidating.
âWe both have something that nourishes us, and dining is more of a passion project,â Beardsley said. âWe do it for fun and we do it to disseminate our ingredients. How many people can say, âI opened a restaurant and a barâ? I can say that I have lived it, whether it succeeds or fails.