Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations. Curious about the food at qui? Here's our first look.
When diners arrive at Paul Qui's long awaited formal restaurant, simply named qui, they are first escorted to the bar. There, bar manager Michael Simon and his team shake and stir up pre-dinner beverages that can also be sipped on the restaurant's spacious patio.
Simon, a Chicago transplant, has managed the bar programs at Graham Elliot, Acadia, and The Bedford & Carriage House. He sums up qui's premiere cocktail menu as "driven, fun, and irreverent." He says, "I'm very serious about making the drinks awesome, but I don't take myself too seriously. I'm not curing cancer here." Quite a few of the drink names are inspired by television shows.
"We want the best product and purity of ingredient possible," he says, "but not something to show off. I'm not interested in that," he explained. Much of the preparation occurs in the kitchen—the team is making frequent use of a vacuum sealer and sous vide machine to extract and infuse flavors for cocktails. Many drink components are batched in advance to streamline service.
We asked Simon to describe the 6-drink house cocktail menu as a whole, and he responded that "there are lots of savory elements to the drinks. They're boozy but balanced; salty, sweet, and sour, so they can pair well with food."
Simon and his team are also busy documenting their ideal renditions of classic recipes, aiming to provide guests with consistent drinks no matter who is behind the bar. (They have polished 75 recipes at the moment but aim to cover 200 by August).