Fine dining has yet to really stick on the East Side like it has in other parts of town. High-end restaurants have come and gone while cheaper, low-key neighborhood spots still reign supreme. Qui, the flagship fine dining restaurant from Paul Qui, which closed in 2016 amidst a lot of controversy, was the closest that any East Side dining experience came to sticking around that didn’t offer A) breakfast tacos B) barbecue or C) irony. Now, in the same building, the same team is taking another stab at East Side fine dining. This time it’s with Kuneho. And this time it works.
Kuneho serves non-traditional spins on Japanese, Thai, Laotian, Korean, and Vietnamese plates of all different sizes - crudos, rice bowls, cold plates, sushi and sashimi, and tiny bites. This varied menu makes it easy to have everything from a light meal to a try-everything group extravaganza, and for a place casting such a wide net across so many different kinds of food, they do almost all of it extremely well. The one exception is the sushi - which is fine, not great - and although we had high raw fish expectations, the rest of the menu makes up for it. You’ll eat delicious things like roti canai, a cheesy bread-laden curry, and kinilawin, sliced hamachi in a coconut milk dressing that’s pretty much the best tuna salad of all time.
The space is sleek and sophisticated, but doesn’t take itself too seriously - little touches like the giant lego brick that accompanies your check make this place feel fun and unpretentious. Another thing that keeps Kuneho from feeling stuffy? The friendly and attentive service. Our water glasses were never empty for more than 30 seconds, unnecessary apologies were made for a (hardly) late handoff of an excellent cocktail, and if you have questions about the menu - which you probably will - they’re ready to help make the most of your relatively expensive meal. This level of service is rare in a city known in the early ’90s as a safe haven for excessive laziness.
Kuneho is a fine dining experience where you actually feel like you get your money’s worth. And while it basically feels like it’s been airlifted in from New York or Los Angeles, unlike designer green juice and $35 spin classes, this is a place that actually makes sense.
This is a single bite that should kick off your meal. It’s salmon cooked so perfectly that it melts in your mouth. Oh, and it’s topped with salmon roe.
Cold and refreshing sliced hamachi with a mixture of coconut milk and coconut vinegar, tossed with some onions and seasoning to more or less create the best tuna salad you’ve ever eaten.
This is savory, buttery rabbit in a spicy curry with a huge accompanying plate of cheesy naan bread. Translation: it’s basically cheesy bread served with delicious, meaty dipping sauce. It’s also one of the heavier items on the menu, so try rounding out your meal with this dish.
A fish cake rolled into rice. We love fishcakes by themselves, but the sushi-roll-ifying of an already-starchy dish is confusing. Skip this.
This is Norwegian Mackerel topped with ginger. It looked beautiful, but oddly enough neither the nigiri or sashimi blew us away like the rest of the dishes.
Another dish on the heavier side: cubes of pork belly atop fresh Asian pear and tomatoes. It’s rich and mind-blowingly good - a fantastic way to end your meal.