The Qui to the City

21 Jul


This is one dish. One dish I wish I didn’t have to split three ways. Rabbit 7 Ways is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, I had no qualms about sharing this incredible dish with Bennett and Jordy as Caitlin nibbled on the few veggie dishes she could eat*. It was one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had from top to bottom. After Jordy and I decided to pass on a four-hour line at Franklin BBQ earlier in the day, we walked to Qui by 4:30 to make sure we were early in line when they opened at 5. Seeing no one around at 4:30, we stopped by Liberty for a beer, walked back and found the front gate closed. We were soon notified to come around to the back entrance and saw 10 people milling around. We were quickly let in, put our names down, and set up at the bar as we waited for Caitlin and Bennett.

*I’m not the kind of vegetarian to needle my meat-eating loved ones about their choices. Their body, their decision is how I feel about it. However, I can think of almost nothing less pleasant that having to smell rabbit stomachs while you try to nibble on your own meal. I asked them to move the dish away, because it was that potent.IMG_3698

As soon as we sat down, we were handed a complimentary glass of prosecco as we looked over the drink menu. We watched as everyone who walked up was seated immediately, but we had about an hour until Bennett and Caitlin showed up, so we decided to order a glass of whiskey and ask the bartender too many questions. He taught us that a true cocktail has four elements: water, bitters, sugar and spirits and we asked him about his cocktail swizzle sticks and unique drink garnishes as he worked. Not long after we finished our whiskey, Caitlin and Bennett arrived, but by now the room had filled up and we were told it would be about 45 minutes. I chatted with Caitlin, who was braving feeling sick to come out as Bennett and Jordy caught up, having not seen each other for six years. We drank and people watched, and when someone dropped a glass of Pelligrino on the ground, we saw Paul Qui spring out to help clean up and took the biggest piece of glass out of the way. Smooth move. 

meeting quiPaul Qui walked past us just as the three of us were posing for a picture, so we asked him to join us for a pic. He seems like a kind, smart guy*. Odd fact Jordy told me: He doesn’t own any white socks. Also, he was wearing crocs.

*I completely agree with this sentiment. He seems truly invested in how his namesake restaurant is doing, which I can appreciate.

crackersSoon after we sat down, we were treated to free “housemade nori crackers with aerated cabot 2 year clothbound cheddar.” Pretty exceptional take on cheeze whiz on crackers. This was one of the best things we ate, but it was not even listed on the menu. I appreciate the “surprise and delight” element of the cracker being offered up for free, but seriously, especially as there were so few veggie-friendly options – this is something they should really put on the menu, already. Oh, I think it’s a great touch. Makes you feel like you’re getting something extra special.

cornCaitlin got her own order of street urchin, but without the urchin. It’s described as “uni bottarga on 2 pieces of mexican street corn.” Incredible texture and quite a treat. This was the best thing I ate all night. Kind of like the brussels sprouts at Uchiko, Qui just knows how to do amazing stuff to run-of-the-mill vegetables.


There is always one vegan entree on the Qui menu, and this night, this was it. It was a veggie curry with peanut sauce. It was good, but I just don’t like curry very much in general, so it wasn’t my first choice – it was my only choice. I guess this is the biggest issue I have with Qui. For a restaurant trying to be a beacon for the city of Austin, why not throw at least one more vegetarian entree on the menu each night? There were only two appetizers (the corn I had, or a mushroom dish) that were vegetarian-friendly, and then one main entree. I guess it’s nice that there are any veggie options at all, but Austin is such a vegetarian-heavy city – as a vegetarian, I wouldn’t call Qui my go-to restaurant at this point. There are many, many more places that are much cheaper that I’d prefer to go. Even Uchiko does a better job. Hopefully this will continue to evolve moving forward. I did feel bad that it wasn’t a vegetarian friendly night. I definitely would have felt a bit left out if I was vegetarian eating there.

eggBennett, Jordy and I split this mushroom and egg dish, which was texturally intriguing and an interesting change of pace, but not my favorite.

quailI had the quail, paired perfectly with sweet potato puree. I didn’t leave a bite on the plate.

porkThe best entree we tried was the salt & time butcher’s cut of pork. I was jealous that Jordy had it.

ice cream sammichWe ended the night with the cheddar ice cream sandwich. I was shocked Caitlin didn’t love it*, but it was more cheddar crispy waffle and had a surprisingly strong peanut butter taste. Still, I was totally fine with her not loving it, since that meant I got all but one bite.

*I didn’t even like it. I knew cheddar cheese had no place on an ice cream sandwich, and the nutterbutter-like shell that made this a “sandwich” also took away from the ice cream. I am the queen of ice cream and I love cheese, but I have never had the desire to smoosh these things together, and now I feel vindicated..

Qui won’t be a place we visit regularly, mostly due to the lack of vegetarian options and cost, but I’ll happily go on special occasions or when foodie friends are in town and want to go. It was a truly unique dinner experience. I’m torn on this place. I more than had my doubts going into it – it seemed uppity and too self-aware to be a place I thought I’d be comfortable in. I was pleasantly surprised that the vibe was more comfortable than I feared, and the music playlist was totally on point. They played LCD Soundsystem and Miike Snow and all kinds of stuff that put me in a good mood, despite my cold. I liked the architecture, and the mixed drinks were truly masterpieces – even for a sweet-toothed gal like myself, I enjoyed the layers of flavor within one drink. Overall, though, I just didn’t enjoy the flavor sensations enough to justify the cost, and having a choice of one item I don’t really like to begin with for dinner is not gonna ever be my go-to. I wish Qui the best, and I meant it when he came by our table and asked if we enjoyed ourselves when I said, “Yes.” I would like to go back after a few months, when the place has come into its own a little bit more.

Vine of our meal


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