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Paul Qui Returns With Kuneho

01.26.2017 by: Tom Harris
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Paul Qui returns to the Austin restaurant scene with Kuneho, a warm and inviting space featuring small plates inspired by a cheerfully all-encompassing set of East Asian cuisine influences. Those familiar with Qui’s work at his previous, eponymous restaurant (housed in the same space in East Austin) will not be too surprised with Kuneho, though there is an increased emphasis on ever-smaller plates, including “Bites,” which are quite literally bite-sized dishes with a typically playful bent.

Kuneho's Sleekly Moody Interior

Before we get started: Kuneho’s bite-sized focus can result in bill creep. Our meal for four didn’t turn out any pricier than what one would have expected at Qui or other almost-but-not-quite-Uchi places in town like Lenoir or Emmer & Rye, and we ended up paying about as much as I would have guessed walking into the place, but a parade of $6 bites can sneak up on you in a way that $30 mains can’t. A humble word to the wise.

Two Bites: Salmon Butter V3.0 and Morcilla

That said, there’s a luxuriant playfulness inherent to high-end super-small plates that a standard appetizer/main course/dessert place just can’t touch, especially when you let the wait staff craft and sequence your meal. And that we largely did, only explicitly selecting a couple of dishes, and letting our waiter recommend the rest.

As delicate as a flower: the Kinilawin

That turned out to be the right choice, as we might not have gotten the Kinilawin, a Filipino-style raw fish dish featuring cobia in a light coconut milk-based broth. It was a revelation, almost impossibly delicate, and an exercise in muted balance.

Melt-in-your-mouth Akami sashimi

We got several excellent pieces of sushi, including a piece of Saba (mackerel) redolent of the sea. But two other fish dishes that really stood out were the Akami (big eye tuna) sashimi, with its meltingly tender, iron-rich taste, and the Madai (Japanese sea bream) Carpaccio, whose delicately sweet flesh was spiked with seductive garlic oil.

A sweet treat: the Madai Carpaccio

Of the “Bites” we tried, perhaps the most fun was the Chawanmushi, an egg custard with chopped maitake mushroom served in brown eggshells.

Chocolate Mochi Cake: A sweet smorgasbord in miniature

The Chocolate Mochi Cake we had for dessert was 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. It was a fittingly exuberant end to an exuberant meal.

{Kuneho Official Website}

TAGS : East Austin , Kuneho