One year and three months after opening Aqui in Montrose, embattled chef Paul Qui has announced that he will officially close his first Houston restaurant.
The restaurant announced its closure via press release over the weekend, but did not cite a reason for Aqui’s impending shutter. “Although it is bittersweet to close Aqui, our team is very excited for all the projects we have in store for Houston in 2019,” Qui said in a statement. “Houston is our home and we are excited to continue to add to its rich culinary story.” Those projects include a series of pop-up dinners that will begin early next year to preview a forthcoming restaurant that will serve “Filipino bites to be shared among friends.”
Aqui was a decidedly controversial topic in Houston dining in 2018, inspiring a lengthy essay from Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook on why she chose to give the restaurant a glowing four-star review while others were boycotting chefs credibly accused of domestic violence or sexual misconduct, and dozens of conversations about whether or not diners should patronize a restaurant owned by an accused abuser. Those allegations likely kept Aqui out of the running for a James Beard Award in 2018, even as pastry chef Jill Bartolome earned a nod for her work at the restaurant.
Where Qui’s new restaurant will open or what it will be called is still unclear, but what is certain is that it’s been a tumultuous year for the chef. In April, domestic violence charges against the chef in Travis County were dropped two years after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend. He also opened fast-casual taco spot Tacqui in Dallas, then promptly closed it less than six months later.
Aqui will serve its final dinners December 23. Stay tuned for more details on Qui’s forthcoming Houston restaurant.