Austin's food media has taken their time before reviewing Qui, Paul Qui's flagship restaurant that is the height of Austin buzz, but the wait is finally over. Both Matthew Odam at The Statesman and Rachel Feit at The Chronicle have dropped reviews today that give wildly different assessments of the restaurant's playful and ever-changing menu. The Chronicle has also posted a review of Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster truck because, hey, why not.
Odam characterizes Qui as facing dueling expectations, characterizing one "camp" as "blinded by adoration," and the other as folks who will hold him to "an impossible standard." Qui, Odam argues, is playing to a "third" camp, those who are "those willing to go along for the ride." Highlights of said ride include a marcona almond gazpacho "made of delicate building blocks" and the "symphony" of Rabbit 7 Ways. Less successful is the hen rice that "suffered from too much salt." Dessert gets high marks, with praise going to the "decadent and savory cheddar cheese ice cream." Director of ops June Rodil is "gregarious" and the servers are " some of the best" in Austin, but Odam observes that the practice of having the chef who prepared the dish serve it falls flat. Qui is currently in his "top 10 Austin restaurants" and has the potential to "land in the top three." He rates it an 8.5 out of 10.
Rachel Feit is less impressed by Qui's playfulness, arguing that some dishes push "the limits of appropriateness." Feit is a fan of the "pasta curry style" which was an "unexpected treat," and the Salt & Time bavette was "as perfect as any steak can be." The Rabbit 7 Ways has become "the darling of foodies and critics alike (this author included)." But Feit says that Qui is "straining to be too clever" with dishes like the "limp and rubbery" roast quail and the "drippy and curdy" chawanmushi. Dessert gets slammed, with Feit likening the "Qui" lime pie and the cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich to an "obscure joke that I just don't get." She wonders if Qui is a "victim to the demands of his own celebrity" and says the cuisine is "testing the audience to see how long they will clap." In contradiction to all those inspiring elementary school posters, Feit cautions Qui to do "less reaching for the stars."
Meanwhile, Kate Thornberry visits Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster, which she describes as the only place to get such a delicacy besides Perla's (perhaps she has not heard of Dock & Roll?). Thornberry is a fan of the affordable and fresh lobster, virtues of the owner's connection to her "lobster-fishing family in New England." Their "crammed" sandwiches are "rich and heavenly."
· Paul Qui's Flagship Restaurant is a Testament to the Chef's Boundless Imagination [Statesman]
· Review: Weird Science [Chronicle]
· Review: Garbo's Fresh Maine Lobster [Chronicle]
· All Week in Reviews Coverage [EATX]