In the short time that it’s been open, Qui has earned a reputation for highly original dishes. Much of that has to do with the chef’s wide-ranging imagination and artistic process. Rabbit Seven Ways, a riff on the traditional Vietnamese dish Beef Seven Ways, was on the opening menu and became a signature item. Recently, the sprawling dish underwent a makeover, becoming smaller and more delicate. We asked Paul Qui to walk us through the steps his creations take, from idea to plate.
1. “I start off just writing down different things that go with rabbit, different things rabbits eat, different preparations for rabbit, and the different parts you get after butchering the rabbit—kidney, front legs, hind legs, liver, heart, rack, nam, which is a fermented rabbit sausage. Different garnishes. Different vegetables I can source right now.”
2. “And then everything that’s on the graph paper I transfer onto the tags, and I put them up on the wall. That way it’s easier for us to make different combos. I just leave it up there, because sometimes that awesome idea is not going to pop into your head right away. With this dish, we eventually settled on following the shape of the rabbit, starting off with the loin and ending with the nam. We paired the heart with the beets, because the heart’s beating and it’s red. But also the sweetness of the beets complements the iron. And we put the carrots with the belly because people think that rabbits eat carrots.”
3. “The notebook is where we figure out how we’re going to compose it. When we get closer to finalizing dishes, I draw them out like this. It’s really to give me a frame of reference for how we want to plate the dish.”
4. “Everywhere else that I’ve eaten rabbit, you either get the loin as a confit or rillettes or you get the whole rabbit braised. I wanted to highlight different parts of the rabbit. When it’s all together, I want the diner to experience rabbit in seven distinct bites.”