Chronicle reviewer Melody Fury found discord with newcomer Kuneho despite a memorable menu. In early January, chef Paul Qui transformed his flagship restaurant (it closed last November after his March arrest on charges of assault against his girlfriend) into the approachable Japanese restaurant with international influences including Texan and Filipino flair.
Fury discovered a successfully ambitious menu, from the perfect bites selections like salmon butter to chawanmushi to crudos and snacks, such as a Filipino-style ceviche and chicken karaage. She appreciated the high and decadent offerings to the more modest ones:
[... T]he most opulent offering must have been the A5 Miyazaki Wagyu ($14), a buttery marbled slice of the world's most revered beef, gently kissed by binchotan to add smokiness. Time stood still with each chew. However, the more humble picks captivated me in unexpected ways. The enoki mushroom ($3), deeply umami and grilled to the ideal doneness, and the fluffy mound of crispy onions ($3) gave the nigiri high impact without the big bucks. At $6, the finely scored 28-day aged beef tongue brushed with fish caramel was a solid stand-in for the Wagyu.
The minor food hiccups were primarily seen in more generous plates, such as the pork belly lichen and unicorn en vaso. Though, Fury was quick to acknowledge other large plates such the sisig and blue crab "were so spot-on delicious that I wished they offered takeout". However a few slip-ups could also found with the beverage service, including a server who wasn’t familiar with the sake list.
Qui was absent both evenings the critic visited which cast some doubts on Kuneho being Qui’s redemption that many had hoped for. Fury concluded:
“It was clear that chef de cuisine Mia Li runs a tight ship, sending out only what she was proud of. Even so, the show's tune has changed. The transformation to deliver more approachable fare was indeed successful. But while sitting at the counter, the hot and cold service was unable to swoon me like they once did. At each progression of the meal, I couldn't help but ask "Where's Qui?" and wonder if he would one day bring cohesion between food and service back.”
Jolène M. Bouchon with Austin Monthly added her praise for Old Thousand, East Side’s hot restaurant serving up modern interpretations of American-Chinese classics. The casual neighborhood spot opened last December under co-chefs James Dumapit and David Baek.
Bouchon catalogued several dishes that hit the right note of Texas meets tradition such as brisket fried rice (with beef from Micklethwait Craft Meats), kung pao cauliflower, vegetarian dan dan noodles, and a five-spice churro served with pandan cream. The nai nai chicken and rice congee was the standout. As for the few missteps — such as flawed cocktails — usually were addressed, and the “snafus diminished neither the eatery’s confidence nor its charm”.
Echoing sentiments found in Chronicle’s Brandon Watson’s February review of Grizzelda’s, Bouchon ties accusations of overpriced dishes to food inspired by immigrant populations.
I’ve heard complaints it’s “pricey for Chinese.” Baloney. Per plate, Old Thousand’s price point hovers around $12, which isn’t much more than other Chinese food joints around town. Just because “ethnic” food is often cheap doesn’t mean it should be. Great ingredients, atmosphere, location, and technique are worth the cost, no matter where in the world they’re from.
THE BLOGS — Dine with Shayda tried the indulgent new brunch menu at Kung Fu Saloon, Girl Eats World revealed her top five Asian food trailers in Austin, Austinot checked out the vibe at Slow Pokes Brisket Shack, and A Taste of Koko interviewed real guys on Tinder to ask where they’d go on a first date.
- Restaurant Review: Kuneho [Chronicle]
- Restaurant Review: Old Thousand [Austin Monthly]