Paul Qui’s newest venture, the eponymous Qui flagship opened on East 6th last week. I heard the masses lined up long before the doors opened, solidifying Qui’s rockstar status in Austin. I’m not one to stand in line, so Mr. Betty and I checked it out during the soft opening. Here’s my recap.
The chic space has no signage to denote what it is, but as the most anticipated opening of the year, it needs none. The menu is small and was immediately leaked, so we knew what to expect. The tables are small and very close together, so we made friends with the people on either side of us. Everyone was happy to be getting an advance peek at the place and there was excitement in the air. We started with drinks and I had a delicious Ephemere. There’s a creative cocktail menu and I can personally endorse the Lena Dunham’s Super Nightlife Mule, which is a kicked-up Moscow Mule. The inclusion of celery and lemongrass amplify an already pleasing concoction. Follow me on Instagram to see a photo.
We picked a bunch of stuff off the menu that sounded interesting and relied heavily on the recommendations of our friendly server. The Gulf Shrimp Chawanmushi came out first. There are a few items on the menu that state they should not be shared because they are small or simply difficult to split. This is one of those items but our server told us to do it anyway. Flavor-wise, this was my favorite dish. The succulent shrimp were immersed in an egg custard rich with fishy goodness. It was only a few bites, but very memorable.
Next was the Salmon Butter or as described aloud, salmon like butter, meaning it was spreadable. Poached in oil, the salmon was silky and buttery. Easy to spread on crackers and topped with various accoutrements, this was a fun, colorful, and interactive dish. I will steal this idea and make it at home.
Mexican Street Corn is one of my favorites, so I was excited to see it on the menu with shaved dried uni. When they have fresh uni, you can add that on top as well. I had trouble distinguishing any flavor from the dried uni and this was kind of a messy dish to eat with your hands.
Catfish Like Unagi was a dish I really wanted to check out because I love unagi. I had heard people rave about the Japanese sweet potato, which is a favorite in my family. We eat them at Thanksgiving some years instead of regular ole’ orange sweet potatoes. But I rarely see them in restaurants. And the sweet potato was delicious although meager. I was hoping the catfish would be a revelation, but I found myself just wishing it was unagi.
One last side was the Not Fried Green Tomato which our waiter said was his favorite. All the elements of a fried green tomato, minus the frying. See, Paula Deen? This is how you can do a healthy version of southern favorites.
I’m pretty sure when Paul Qui developed this recipe, it went a little something like this.
A homemade version of canned cheese was squirted onto crackers and passed around. Would you think I was crazy if I said maybe that spray cheese was my favorite moment of the meal? It was RIDICULOUS. The waiter came right back and asked, Aren’t you dying?! I wonder how much Paul would charge to cater a football game in my living room, just cheese and crackers?
Despite everyone’s exclaims over the Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich, we wanted a dessert we could split, so we opted for the Coconut Snow. The caramelized peanuts were topped with custard, a little pineapple, peanut milk and lots of crumbly, powdery snow. I’m not one for powders, I guess, because it didn’t taste like much to me.
The verdict? Well, this place is going to do great no matter what I say. I’m a fan of Paul Qui and love the East Side King trucks. There was nothing on the menu that blew me away but I’m hoping future versions of the menu will have dishes that speak to me more. There’s a dry-aged ribeye available for $150 and seeing as we spent the same on our small bites, I’m wondering if I would have left feeling a bit more satisfied having eaten a steak. Qui is in a unique position in that there is so much hype built around it, many will love it sheerly because they are supposed to and others will be disappointed because nothing could possibly live up to the hype.
Have you been to Qui yet? I’d love to know your opinion in the comments.