After months of rumors that Paul Qui’s had a comeback in the works, the embattled chef has officially announced that he’ll open a new eatery at the forthcoming Post HTX food hall.
Qui made the announcement on Instagram on Thursday, but didn’t provide a whole lot of insight into what the restaurant will look like. At this point, all that’s known is that he’s working on a concept for the forthcoming 550,000 square foot Post HTX food hall project that’s currently under development inside the Barbara Jordan Post Office building in the Theatre District. That said, when Qui closed his Montrose restaurant Aqui in December 2018, the chef promised that he’d be back, and announced plans for a forthcoming restaurant that will serve “Filipino bites to be shared among friends.”
Back in May, Qui was spotted dining around Houston with superstar chef Alex Atala and developer Kirby Liu, whose company Lovett Commercial is helming the Post HTX project. When Post HTX was announced in June, Lovett Commercial didn’t share any details on which chefs would be involved, but rumors that Qui was involved with the project persisted.
The new restaurant is Qui’s second venture in Houston, following the closure of his controversial restaurant Aqui in December 2018. Prior to the chef’s arrival in Houston, he was arrested on charges of domestic violence after he allegedly beat his girlfriend in front of her child at their Austin home. Those charges were eventually dropped because the alleged victim in the case declined to cooperate with Travis County prosecutors.
In the years following his arrest, Qui has been one of the most controversial figures in dining, and not just in Houston. When Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook reviewed Aqui in 2018, she accompanied the review with an essay that detailed her ethical struggle of reviewing a restaurant owned by a man accused of domestic violence. And, in 2019, the developers of a Denver food hall cut ties with Qui one day after announcing that he’d bring his Austin eatery East Side King to the city following a massive backlash from diners.
Outside of the domestic violence charges, it’s also been an up-and-down year in a business sense for the chef. Aqui shuttered just one year and three months after opening its doors, despite extensive critical acclaim. Just before that, Qui closed Tacqui, his fast-casual Japanese taco spot in Dallas, after less than six months in business. He’s also suing his former business partners for upwards of $1 million in wages that he was allegedly “deceived” out of.
Beyond “coming soon,” Qui hasn’t announced a timeline for the new restaurant’s arrival. Stay tuned for updates as this story develops.
Update, 11/21: This post has been updated with a screenshot of Qui’s post to Instagram. The chef has removed the post, and Eater has reached out to the developers of Post HTX for more information on his involvement.