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The Early Word on Top Chef’s Second Chance, Kuneho

Read on for the good and bad news on the fare, cocktails, and prices

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Food and drink at Kuneho
Food and drink at Kuneho

In early January, acclaimed chef Paul Qui opened Kuneho in the same East Sixth space where his flagship restaurant Qui once sat (it closed last November after his March arrest on charges of assault against his girlfriend). The transformation brought with it a casual Japanese menu with international influences including Texan and Filipino flair. Qui is joined in the kitchen by chef de cuisine Mia Li, a veteran of Thai Kun.

The food — The new menu features a small-bites concept (think of dishes such as uni toast, rabbit hand pies, and trout roe migas that bring to mind Qui’s whimsical style). It also includes traditional offerings like sushi and sashimi, crudo, maki mono, nabe, and more. Local Sugar highlighted the kinilawin and madai carpaccio as standouts, while Claudia Alarcon of CultureMap pointed to the roti canai with rabbit curry and the unicorn en vaso with grilled corn, corn milk and sea urchin as clear winners.

Hungry for dessert? There are three dessert options at this time including a matcha mochi with Valrhona ganache that Local Sugar declared “classic Qui, with so many discrete elements to sample, combine, and play off each other that it was a virtual microcosm of a small-plate meal itself.”

The drinks — Taking a note from Qui’s playbook, Kuneho’s bar menu is marked by thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Numerous reviewers pointed out the unexpected ingredients, like the Cloak of Feathers, which features coconut oil, black tea kombucha, and maple syrup; The Rockin' Bird with Fruity Pebbles; and an Aperol float, which also earned attention. The menu also includes a balanced selection of wine and beer menu, including a variety of sake selections such as bottles of Junmai Daiginjo and Nama by the can, reported Zagat’s Veronica Meewes.

The prices — From shared plates to a full sushi bar, the menu is “structured and priced for an affordable yet adventurous night out,” summarized Alarcon. However, despite the small plates ranging from only $3 to $8, Local Sugar was quick to warn "a parade of $6 bites can sneak up on you in a way that $30 mains can’t."

The space — Kuneho is comprised of four separate spaces, including a main dining room, a cocktail lounge dubbed The Borough Bar, sushi bar, and a patio. Unlike the menu, the Zen-like interior remains familiar — polished yet casual — though Meewes added it feels “like a more minimalist version of its former self [...] the dining room has a moodier feel thanks to a darker ceiling and divider separating the open kitchen from the seating.” Yelper Caitlin M. warned that the bar is very small, offering less than 10 seats.

The overall experience — Tasting Table pointed at Kuneho one of the best new restaurants of 2017 and Alarcon spoke for many when she wrote, “We are glad to see Paul Qui back in the saddle.”

Kuneho [Closed]

1600 East 6th Street, Austin, Texas 78702