"It's been pretty intense," he tells The Dish. "We've been cooking till midnight, sometimes later. I'm barely getting any sleep. But it was really cool on Saturday night—everybody there gave me and my staff some applause."
He's earned it. After months of prepping the 12- to 14- item menu at the 50-seat eatery—during which time Qui won some major cooking awards—there were lines out the door and wait times of up to three hours. "Our house is a mess!" says Paul, referring to the place he shares with his fiancée and manager Deana Saukam. "And I've been going to Wal-Mart at night to buy more white T-shirts, black pants and socks because I haven't had time to do laundry. It's chaos!"
Paul plans to change up his small but "playful" menu to highlight fresh, new ingredients as they become available, but right now, he says there are three things in particular that he'd urge Qui's visitors to try.
Rabbit Seven Ways
Paul says this signature item was inspired by a traditional Vietnamese dish called "Beef Seven Ways." "I always wanted to do a dish where I utilize every part of the rabbit. If you order it, it's enough food for a whole meal," he says. It's made up of several cold and hot preparations and includes a rabbit broth consommé that's served in a teacup with a ceramic bunny tail serving as its handle. "We have flower pots that have lettuce in them with different parts of rabbit in there, that you dip into a carrot fish sauce. It's all very playful like that," says Paul with a chuckle. "You're eating rabbit, eating lettuce, having carrot juice, drinking from a rabbit cup."
Rabbit Seven Ways (Photo by Bonjwing Lee)
Salmon Like Butter
"I never thought I was going to put salmon on my menu because it's usually such a boring protein, but the quality of the salmon is really good," he explains. "If you poach it very lightly, you can spread it on a cracker. I ate a bite and I was like, 'Wowit's spreadable like butter, so lets treat it like it's butter.'" His dish is served with caviar.
Salmon Like Butter (Photo by Bonjwing Lee)
Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich
"I know it's kind of weird for some people," says Qui, "but it's normal for me because I'm Filipino. We have a Vermont cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich that is my favorite. My team that’s doing desserts knocked it out of the park with this one. It's pretty killer."
Cheddar Cheese Ice Cream Sandwich (Photo By Bonjwing Lee)
For now, the James Beard Award-winning chef is firmly focused on Qui, which means wedding plans with Deana are temporarily on hold—but only because they're so busy. "We haven’t had any time to plan it yet," says Paul. "We're both working a lot—and working together."