Qui's Second Chance

First taste of top Austin chef's highly anticipated restaurant redo

First taste of top Austin chef's highly anticipated restaurant redo

Kuneho restaurant perfect bites
Kuneho opens January 2. Photo by Mark Weatherford

UPDATE: Kuneho has moved the grand opening from January 2 to January 4.

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After coming to terms with and addressing some deep personal issues, Paul Qui is ready to reboot his career with a new concept on the site of his former eponymous endeavor. We attended a preview of Kuneho, with a limited menu, and foresee success for the talented chef’s new project, which holds its grand opening on January 4.

We were pleased to see familiar faces in the open kitchen, including Qui and fellow Uchi alum Vu Le, alongside chef de cuisine Mia Li.

"Restaurants have always been family to me and it warms my heart to open Kuneho with the many people that I've worked with before,” says Qui. “Kuneho means embracing my culinary past and my personal heritage. My love of food started at a sushi bar and it felt natural to me to create and evolve that experience with what I've learned and continue to learn. I'm excited to cook in a space with no ego and no culinary judgment, with the amazing Mia Li and an awesome GM in Andrew Grenz."

The space underwent a few updates, including a wood divider between the cocktail lounge and the dining room, a new counter for the sushi bar, and a fresh coat of paint. The vibe is relaxed, and the menu is structured and priced for an affordable yet adventurous night out. The adjacent Borough is a craft cocktail bar serving inventive libations with unexpected ingredients like the Cloak of Feathers, featuring dark rums, five spice, coconut oil, black tea kombucha, maple syrup, lime, and Angostura bitters. The patio offers a lively spot to enjoy drinks and bites.

Although modeled after a sushi bar, Kuneho’s culinary offerings also include Thai, Filipino, and Korean influences.

The menu starts with a “perfect bites” section, with items like toast fingers topped with uni (sea urchin roe) and a paper-thin slice of lardo or a quail yolk topped with caviar and light soy sauce served in the egg shell. Raw fish dishes abound, including an outstanding mackerel escabeche with ponzu. The Austin roll, Qui and Le’s answer to the ubiquitous California roll, substitutes a Thai fish cake for the krab (“it’s also made with ground fish, minus the Red #40”, says Le).

The night’s winner was the super tender shredded rabbit in panang curry accompanied by a crisp roti, with Qui’s latest version of the exquisite unicorn (a creamy concoction of uni and corn kernels) a close second. Grenz’s beverage list includes a nice selection of sake and a short but appropriate wine list with selections in all price ranges.

We believe in second chances. We are glad to see Paul Qui back in the saddle and look forward to returning to Kuneho when the full menu is in effect.