Chef Liu Fang and Carl Setzer have made a name for themselves in the city over the past year. It all started as a random pop-up selling buns, dumplings and noodles called Culinary wealth moved on to a weekly two-day residency in Larder, Ohio. At these and other events around town at Rising Star in Cleveland Heights, the couple has cultivated a passionate following for Fang’s haute Chinese cuisine. The chef draws on the bounty of our region to create modern interpretations of classic Chinese dishes. Diners on both sides of the city loved dishes like Chinese Sausage Dumplings, Dried Fried Green Beans, Shanghai Scallion Noodles, Honey Ma Wings and Huainan Brisket Ramen.
Fang and Setzer’s nomadic days would soon be over. The two recently revealed their plans to take up permanent residence in a dining car on Lee Road.
“We’ve been very motivated by the response we’ve seen from people with a strong family heritage or experience in Asia, as well as people who just came in blind and driven by curiosity,” says Setzer.
Fang, who was born and raised in China, met Setzer, who was born and raised in Northeast Ohio in China, in 2004. Together, they founded the first craft brewery in Beijing and quickly expanded, opening additional bars and brewpubs in the region. Covid took the couple to Cleveland, where they lived for the past three years.
“Chinese-American food has had the same flavor for the last 20 to 30 years, and there’s a love for it,” Fang explains. “But I think it’s time for a change. It just so happened that Karl and I were in China running a food and beverage business at a time when China was experiencing great economic development. Having the opportunity to bring a concept like craft beer using Chinese ingredients to China, we want to do something similar here, but in reverse: to bring a high and modern Chinese flavor to a market where there is an abundance of almost everything raw material, talent wise and public interest.”
Fang and Setzer are not the type of team to impose things too quickly. They will gradually expand the hours, days and offerings of Abundance. Fans will find them at the Larder this month for two more pop-ups from Sunday to Monday. Simultaneously, they will begin serving Friday-Saturday at Rising Star. In April, they will start working from Thursday to Sunday. During the summer, these days of service will probably increase to five or six per week. A beer and wine license is in the works.
In early 2023, the couple upped their typical pop-up experience in Hingtown by hosting a week of prix-fixe dining. The sold-out events can give guests a glimpse of what the future of Bogotá might look like in terms of food, serving and service at the 38-seat eatery.
“One of the reasons we were so excited to do the prix fixe dining week was that it really gave us an idea of how diners would respond to an experience that was a little bit more family and a little bit more communal, but still very intimate,” says Setzer. “The lessons we learned from that in the Larder space will drive us in how we create that experience for the diner. We want to make people feel that it’s not rushed or temporary, but that it’s permanent and that it’s an experience they can enjoy again and again.”
The cross-town move is bittersweet for the Abundance team, Fang says.
“Jeremy and Ellie [Umansky] were so generous to give us their kitchen for the weekly pop-up,” she says. “The two of them are a pleasure to work with, but we’re ready to graduate from their kitchen and move to the eatery on Lee Road.”
But the couple isn’t giving up on Ohio City entirely. They will continue to host one pop-up per month at the Larder to show their appreciation to their loyal fans.
“We want them to still have access to what they helped create with their patronage,” Setzer adds.
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