This year, Clay and I spent the time between Christmas and New Year’s Day in Austin, Texas with his family. While there, I was able to cross off an item from my 30 Before 30 list, #15: Eat at a Top Chef’s restaurant. Not only was it a Top Chef, but it was one of my very favorites: Paul Qui from Top Chef Texas.
They graciously accommodated our party of 14 for a 3-hour meal. The menu was exciting and the service was unbelievable. Every course came with unique flatware, locally-designed plates, and table-side presentations. Paul even served and explained a few dishes to our table.
I was already so excited and then I saw calimocho on the menu. I make my own basic version by adding red wine to Diet Coke, but theirs was, expectedly, soooo much better. It included some spices I can’t remember and orange peel. And it came in this really neat spouted carafe. Amazing.
Qui serves family-style so we were able to try most of the food from the menu. We started with an “ode to Michel Bras”: chilled turnip dashi over a selction of vegetables from Austin farmers, and kinilaw: amberjack filipino ceviche (one of my favorite dishes of the night).
Next we had chicken adobo rice, kare kare: filipino peanut curry vegetables, cabbage with crispy chicken skin and spiced yogurt, and sea urchin pasta (not pictured). The kare kare was the best thing I ate. It was a new flavor and so delicious; it didn’t even need meat.
Next we tried dinuguan: pork and blood gnocchi, three preparations of rabbit, and chicken inasal. I couldn’t get good pictures of these courses, but they were all phenomenal. My mother-in-law even said it was the best chicken she’d ever had. After dinner they brought us crackers with a foam topping, meant to taste just like Ritz crackers and cheese. This was an exciting Top Chef kind of moment for me. I haven’t eaten much foam anything, let alone cheese-flavored foam.
For dessert we tried halo halo and a cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich. Both were delicious and so different than anything I’ve ever tasted.
All in all, it was an unforgettable experience. Now Clay and I are talking about traveling the country to eat at more Top Chef’s restaurants. And I can’t wait!