The menu at qui is focused and well edited with some small plates, sides (referred to as banchan) and entree size portions. We wanted to try a variety of small items with an entree, all for sharing. We started with Ode to Michael Bras (the celebrated French Chef) which is a selection of vegetables from Austin farmers with a chilled garlic dashi (soup) that is poured onto the plate at the table. This was a beautiful dish to both the eye and the palate. Very subtle and clean with the edible flowers being a nice touch. Next we tried the Gulf Shrimp Chawanmushi. This is a farm egg custard with gulf shrimp and Texas corn sofrito. All of these elements worked well together and made for a filling starter. The kitchen was kind enough to send over a complimentary order of Salmon Butter, oil poached ora king salmon with traditional caviar accoutrements. This was served with a generous stack of house made crackers. Spread the salmon on the cracker and top with creme fraiche, onion, cooked egg, roe, etc. Sublime.
Next out was an amuse bouche of house made cheddar crackers with a cheese topping that was applied table side. Very intense, rich flavor that was an appreciated addition to the meal. The final dishes to arrive were the Catfish like Unagi and a side of Roasted Peaches. Grilled catfish with Japanese sweet potatoes, fresh wasabi, kinome and pickled vegetables was impressive. The humble catfish was elevated by treating it in the traditional way one serves unagi (fresh water eel). The glazed, salty, smokey flavor on the outside with the tender, flaky fish on the inside was a win. The taste of the sweet potato is intensified by this combination of flavors as are the other components on the plate. This was a standout dish. The Roasted Peach, one of the banchan items, was another highlight of the meal. The peach is sprayed with a raspberry vinegar and slow roasted. I can guaranteed you have never tasted a peach like this. Something about this process brings out every ounce of flavor in the fruit. Almost a dessert in itself. We didn't try anything from the dessert menu, but would like to go back for the Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich, which I hear is a delight.
I can't end this without mentioning the other aspects that make qui a special place. The simple, clean, efficient space created by A Parallel Architecture, the energetic yet subtle "shadow art" (for lack of a better term) on the interior walls by Peelander Yellow (a.k.a. Kengo Hioki), the gorgeous pottery from Keith Kreeger, the customized aprons by Mr. & Mrs. Sew It All. These elements point to qui's attention to detail. In addition, the staff is very warm, inviting and truly listen. When we sat, we mentioned to our server that the music was a bit loud, adding to the din created by a full 50 seat house with mostly hard surfaces. The music was adjusted promptly. Things got even better when the large pocket glass doors where opened to link the indoor area with the patio. The intimate space made me feel like I was dining in a friend's house. I am looking forward to a return visit. (Cathy)