The opulent Faena Hotel Miami Beach houses rock-star Austin chef Paul Qui's first restaurant outside of Texas, the hub of his growing restaurant empire. Qui is a James Beard Award winner and former winner of Bravo's hit reality cooking show, Top Chef. At Pao, which boasts a gold domed ceiling and $6 million gilded unicorn made by Damien Hirst, the prices match the accolades. Unfortunately, the precision of the cooking doesn't match the prices. Yet scattered throughout the menu are a few items worth sampling. Try the whole smoked chicken, brined in fish sauce and served with a fragrant gingered rice and a velvety chicken jus. The pork blood stew called dinuguan is also worth visit, first for the rich sauce the kitchen coaxes out of the pig's ichor and then for the pillowy gnocchi over which it's draped. Qui is ambitious, with an arsenal of show-stopping flavors many will have never encountered. The matter is simply getting them through the kitchen and onto the plate.
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As construction crews toiled away in the yawning, gilded space that houses Pao by Paul Qui, owners of the Faena Hotel Miami Beach were fixated on centerpiece art for the dining room. "One of the funniest conversations with them was ...