Top Chef winner Paul Qui’s newest food truck, East Side King at The Grackle, reopens tonight in Austin’s hip East Side. Qui says his new venture (housed a former cookie delivery truck) has a bigger kitchen with better equipment, better cooks, and better ingredients. “I wasn’t happy with the old menu and I thought the food could be better,” he said this afternoon. “It was time to change things up.”
Change will be the theme of Qui’s coming months. On the heels of winning Top Chef Texas and a dizzing year of travel (including two R&D trips to Japan), the chef left his position at Uchiko to roll out his own mini empire, including two restaurants. A sleek fine dining spot on the East Side will open in early 2013, and a brick and mortar incarnation of his popular trucks on South Lamar next spring.
Qui currently operates three East Side King food trucks (parked at popular East Side bars) with business partner Moto Utsonomiya. The trucks at Liberty Bar and Shangri-La will also undergo makeovers, he says, and a fourth will open at Hole in the Wall, an live music institution on the University of Texas strip.
Painted with a funky purple dragon comprised of brightly colored cookies (leftover art from the vehicle’s previous incarnation) his newest truck serves Qui’s spin on Japanese street food including the Foie Sando ($17), seared foie gras on brioche, chili apple jam, almond butter, selections from the Yaki (grill), like Uzuara ($12), quail and roasted edamamé with shrimp paste; and Broccoli Pops ($4), grilled spears of broccoli and sweet chili miso.
Side dishes (Ostumami) include Agé-mochi ($5), or deep-fried Japanese rice cake, seaweed, and ponzu salsa and Shira-aé ($4), spinach, tofu, sweet chili miso, and crushed sesame seed.
I’ll be lining up for that seared foie gras (and a cold beverage from The Grackle) later tonight. Have you had a chance to check it out?