Qui’s Tasting Room, Austin Texas

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Thanks to a foodie friend of ours on Facebook we found out Paul Qui’s new tasting room would be opening shortly before our brief visit to Austin for the wedding of a friend of Leslie’s. Thanks to a snap decision I followed the link they had posted on Facebook and booked us in for a dining experience that I would thoroughly recommend!

Booking was completed via an online ticketing system, similar to the system employed by Momofuku Seibo in Sydney however it was painless and thankfully, there was an opening on the one free night we had in Austin.

Some reading on the interwebz suggested we’d be treated to somewhere between 20-25 courses and oh boy, was it a feast…

Head Chef Paul Qui was not in on the friday night we visited in mid September, however the meal was more than suitably handed by Qui’s chef de cuisine Jorge and his chef de partie (don’t ask me what that means!)

The restaurant sits on a corner block on e6th Street with a number of bars within a couple of blocks walking distance.

The tasting room posts up alongside one edge of the open kitchen, with a long countertop providing the seating for the first half of the meal. From here you can enjoy the theatre of prep, plating and presentation!

The second half of the meal takes places at booth seating directly behind the bar, which we found a little too dimly light for our liking.

Interestingly, despite being 8 seats at the bar, and no availability online, there was only us and another couple dining on a friday night.

“martinique ti punch with sea air”

we began with the ‘chefs dream of a beach vacation’, and thus began the attendance at a theatrical performance for the next 3 hours… A cocktail of rum agricole(?), sugar cane syrup, and ‘sea air froth’ was served on a bed of ice and fresh flowers.

“squid tartlette, fermented apple chantilly”

A squid bite followed in quick succession consisting of dried squid, a piece of squid, and apple chantilly. The dried squid reminded me of a pappadum however left a bit of a cloying texture in the mouth.

“tuna ‘marrow’, charred onion dashi, black lime”
“ume & nori pirouette”

A faux tuna marrow dashi followed, with a charred onion broth, and a pirouette of nori and plum. The dish was a little bitey and salty for my palate. On reflection, the intensity of flavours the chef’s had achieved through this broth, and many of the broths that followed was very impressive, with a richness of flavour despite being clear.

“sal de gusano, frozen mescal cloud, jamon iberico”

One of the more memorable dishes came next – a frozen Mezcal cloud and some small pieces of Jamon Iberico. The Mezcal had a powder mixture of chillis and worms on top that packed quite a punch, whilst the richness and melty texture of the ham was delicious (as you can imagine for a product that retails for north of $100/kg in Sydney!)

A sparkling wine from the loire accompanied the next 4 courses
“Kanpachi belly, carrot sorbet, osetra caviar, grapefruit, walnut oil”

Caviar anyone? This was ostrecia caviar served with amberjack belly sashimi, with carrot sorbet wrapped in daikon and grapefruit cells. I asked Jorge about why they didn’t use mother of pearl spoons to both quenelle the caviar, and also upon serving. Apparently the metallic flavour doesn’t come through unless you are eating from the metal as part of your mouthful, but i did think for a fancy restaurant that mother of pearl would have been more appropriate.

Besides the caviar the sashimi was fatty and rich, but generally a plain/ mild flavour, while the daikon texture didn’t do it for me.

“chicken consomme chawanmushi, black truffle”

Another fantastic finish followed, because good things come in 3s right?! This was a chawanmushi, a ‘warm custard’ with origins from Japan, served with a chicken consume and black truffle.

“pole bean, almond consomme, pickled pear”

This is a non fish dash with roasted marconi almonds, green beans, pickled pear, and grated almonds on top mimicking bonito flakes. ehhh… next please.

“surf clam escabeche, hot potato mousse, chervil”

A surf clam served in its shell 2 ways – sashimi style, and a ‘preserved’ 2 week old chardonnay vinegar clam. The texture of the two styles was evident, with the preserved pieces having more texture and chew. A potato mousse and chervil topped of the dish. It was always going to be difficult to top the potato mash/mousse from Frenchie and unfortunately this was the case here.

The Scholium Project VLV Reserve from Lodi, California, 2013 was served with the next 3 dishes
“grilled kusshi oyster, beef lardo, aged beef broth, seaweeds”

I’m not sure what it is about oysters, but i find their texture very offputting, like foie gras and ingredients such as tripe. This dish was a grilled oyster with beef lardo, a broth of aged beef bones, smoked seasfood, and a pickled mushroom.

“albacore, binchotan, wasabi, tamari”

A showy dish every now and then is exciting, and hey, a bit of theatre now and then excites the senses, but this next dish just really put me off. The beautiful albacore tuna had been seared directly by a piece of Japanese wood oak creating a very smokey flavour to the tuna. The texture, topped with wasabi and tamari was excellent, but the smoke flavour was too overpowering for me and hence Leslie got to enjoy an extra bite.

“abalone crudo, matsutake, foie gras”

We were very fortunate that on the night the restaurant had received a fresh live abalone flown in from NZ. It was treated very humbly, sliced thinly and served with thinly sliced raw taki mushrooms, in a broth made from the abalone offcuts, with a little foie gras.

Donkey & Goat Grenache Noir, El Dorado, California, 2013

This wine matching by the sommelier was fantastic – we were served an unfiltered pinot noir that smelled and tasted like cherries. yummo!

“roasted bone marrow, hearts of palm, tamarind, stumptown coffee”

A clever visual trick, this bone marrow was veal, served in a ‘bone’ of hearts of palm. I don’t recall if i had ever tasted bone marrow before, and wasn’t a massive fan, i think i would prefer it to be cooked to a different consistency (to be honest, it again reminded of the foie gras at Rubuchon) and served with some bread to smear it on!

“Ramen”

The second half of this dish was ramen with a twist. The noodles were made from the hearts of palm leftovers, along with a very underdone quail egg, with additional quail yolk.

“Grilled lamb neck in yeasted goat milk, arugula”

Lamb saverin was the inspiration for this snack, with a roasted lamb neck served with arugula (rocket) puree, and a goats milk, yeast and cinnamon butter foam to mimic a brioche. Whilst the plating of this dish at the table was great to watch, i would have preferred it to have been plated in the kitchen and immediately served piping hot as the meat was lukewarm upon presentation (and yes i promise it was a quick photo snap!)

Dr Fritz Bream ‘1809’ Berliner Weisse paired with the next 2 items. it was delicious!

“Corn ‘off’ the cob”

4 day fermented corn roasted all day was served with a tart house made yoghurt. Nibbling on the cob was encouraged but difficult. Funnily enough I initially thought we were in for a little savoury/ sweet surprise like our young chefs dinner at est. a while ago

“Barbecue okra”

A simple piece of grilled okra followed which was neither here nor there

Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo, Rioja, Spain, 2006
“Escalivada”

Another veggie dish followed containing blue cheese and i ate it! It was a tomato filled with blue cheese, in a tomato, eggplant, onion broth, served with a 2006 Rioja that Leslie thoroughly enjoyed, and me being the absolute wine novice, also enjoying it.

Our last drinks pairing was the Von Schubert Maximin Grunhauser ‘Abstberg’ Spatlese, Mosel, Germany, 2012
“Green mango, fermented shrimp toffee, ice”

A fermented shrimp paste toffee with green mango was the palate cleanser and boy did it do a fantastic job. It was very refreshing with a nice balance of tartness and sweetness.

“Oregon huckleberries, sake lees ice cream, yogurt, coconut sorbet”

Huckleberries with sake ice cream was the first dessert – yum!

The second dessert was a take on bananas foster and continued the theatre with it being torched table side. The bananas were cooked in saffron syrup. A passionfruit/ white chocolate ganache and coconut sorbet as accompaniments were delicious.
“matcha macaron, yuzu curd
toasted koshihikari jaconde, matcha and yogurt
matcha pate fruit
bittersweet chocolate fizzy rock”

We finished with some different matcha desserts. This asian flavour is not really mine or Leslie’s thing but the contrast in textures of the petit fours was nice.

If you’ve made it this far…congratulations! i bet it was as exhausting reading as it was getting through this enormous degustation!

This was a lovely meal and the perfect way to spend our only free night in Austin. We have never tried Paul Qui’s food previously and would probably try the main restaurant before returning to the tasting table- savouring it for special occasions.

Verdict:

There’s another review with a couple of differing dishes on Austin Fusion Magazine

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