The first thing I told Chef Paul Qui when I had a chance to speak with him at City Grit for his one week cooking event was "I knew you were going to be the winner of top chef since episode one!" I think I may have made him blush a little, but my praises were sincere and true. Having been to Uchi in Austin, I know how exciting the food at Uchi/Uchiko is, and Paul Qui is said to be one of the most talented and creative chef in the Uchi empire. He also impressed the judges and tv audiences with his cooking on Top Chef Texas, taking the Top Chef title, and later on winning Best Chef: Southwest for James Beard award! After months of speculations as to where the chef will open his first brick and mortar restaurant (with New York city being one of the contenders), chef Qui announced that it will be Austin. It is his home after all. Since I was also promoting my neighborhood Williamsburg shamelessly at City Grit dinner, I hope he remembers Brooklyn when he is looking to expand to NYC next time!
City Grit, is a NYC supper club founded by chef Sarah Simmons that hosts a series of dinners weekly, prepared by chef all over the world. For one week only, chef Qui prepares a 7 course menu including a dessert for $95 per person at City Grit. The tasting menu is not entirely cheap but it's considered a pretty good deal for New York City standard. Starting from the first course, tuna jamon (tuna wrapped in jamon drizzled with olive oil and melon) to the lightly caramelized pork jowl served with corn, coriander and black lime, to the rice milk with coconut, panda and parsnip dessert, Chef Qui showed us why he was the Top Chef Texas winner and James Beard Best Southwest Chef award winner.
tomato water with mussel, celery and basil
The refreshing and delicious tomato water also reminded me of the one we had at the one Michelin star Alkimia restaurant in Barcelona and the sunchoke dashi with uni, squash and crime fraiche soup was "lick-your-plate" good. Quail dish with beer, miso and strawberry was cooked and seasoned perfectly, absolutely fantastic!
Perhaps it was the lightly smoked trout that reflects his recent visit to Copenhagen. According to the chef, he was inspired by the new nordic cuisine and techniques learned while he was there, and realized that he still has so much to learn/change for his new restaurant's menu. But everyone knows that Chef Paul Qui is a genius when it comes to making something better -- like how he made a better and more creative version of the pork buns at his East Side King food truck in Austin after tasting David Chang's famous pork bun at Momofuku restaurant; and like how his mentor Tyson Cole admitted on Top Chef that what makes Paul Qui great is his ability to make a dish better than Tyson's own creation/original ideas. After finally having the chance to taste Paul Qui's cooking at City Grit, we have to say that he is definitely the chef to watch, and we are big fans.