|Look carefully and you can see Qui in an orange apron walking by the bar|
Celebrity-sighting Paul Qui on the street or at his favorite haunts like Progress Coffee is exciting enough. But it’s another level at the restaurant, where diners are pumped to see the Top Chef winner, eat his food in the carefully designed yet comfortable interior, and chat it up with the chef. We heard shouts of “Paul, what’s this ingredient?” and “Paul, come talk to us,” throughout the night. It made the experience feel more special to see his friendly celebrity face.
The menu is hyperseasonal but for the most part has not changed yet (though the team told us it will change very shortly). In fact, the only newcomer so far is a dessert, an avocado Qui lime pie (get it?). With an avocado custard (avocado ice and condensed milk), topped with lime sherbet and passion-fruit-and-chile marshmallow and accompanied with almond-flour sable, the dessert is a play on Qui’s favorite Asian dessert from childhood mixed with the traditional American key lime pie. The entire menu feels playful, like the bowls with bunny rabbit tails served with the rabbit seven ways and the cheddar-cheese ice cream sandwich, which was inspired by a waffle-maker Qui brought from home and a joke gone delicious.
Wait times range from 1 hour and 45 minutes on a Wednesday to 3 hours on Friday and Saturday. The team still isn’t sure when the much-buzzed-about tasting menu will be ready, but when it is, 12 tickets will be sold Alinea-style ahead of time. For now the tasting room is the Qui team’s work area, with personal manager and fiancé Deana Saukam, Qui and others working 14- and 16-hour days.
The night we were there, early 90’s music blasted from the stereo (think Janet Jackson). “Our safe word is Count Chocula,” GM Bill Mann told us. “And this mix is called Count Chocula. When everyone’s working as hard as they can, we throw this on.”
You’ve probably already seen photos galore of the interior and the plated food. So here are a few snapshots of something new, like the thoughtfully-designed bike rack outside, wooden plates made from a tree that was in the middle of the old building and bites of the food itself.