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Everyone Loves ... Qui Tran of Mai Lee

Everyone Loves ... Qui Tran of Mai Lee

The Feast 50 is our annual tip of the hat to the best in St. Louis food and drink. This year, we reached out to 50 of the region’s top culinarians and asked them to wax poetic about what dishes they crave, who they most respect and where they choose to dine when they’re not in the kitchen. The result is a rich view of the St. Louis food world from the perspective of the people who know it best.

In going over all of the information for the issue, we realized that there were a few folks that were called out time and time again. One of them was chef Qui Tran of Mai Lee.

Qui tells the story of how his family introduced the first Vietnamese restaurant to St. Louis decades ago and brings you behind the scenes to meet the inspiration behind it all -- his mom -- on Feast TV!

Here's what his peers had to say: 

Adam Tilford, Milagro Modern Mexican, Tortillaria Mexican Kitchen, Mission Taco Joint

Who in the St. Louis restaurant scene inspires you? Qui Tran, chef and owner of Mai Lee, is simply amazing. I swear, that guy is everywhere and knows everyone. Every time I go to Mai Lee, he’s there. Most of the time when I go somewhere else, he’s also there. I don’t know how he does it. It’s like he’s Superman or something. And I’ve never seen him without that amazing smile brightening up the room. Always positive, always genuine, a true leader in the St. Louis culinary scene.

Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? The chicken pho and spinach at Mai Lee. I could eat that every day of my life!

David Choi, Seoul Taco

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Pho Tai at Mai Lee is my go-to meal. Crispy spring rolls and lemon pepper calamari are some of the most flavorful dishes in St. Louis.

Stanley Browne and Arlene Maminta-Browne, Robust Wine Bar

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Seafood charred rice at Mai Lee. We cannot stop eating it. We honestly go at least once every two weeks as a family, and we always order it. It’s the perfect blend of Asian spices and lots of seafood and vegetables over deliciously charred rice. Always tempted to lick the bowl clean.

Chris Sommers, Pi Pizzeria, Gringo

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Pho-getaboutit! Pho Ga at Mai Lee!

Christy Augustin, Pint Size Bakery & Coffee

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? I constantly crave the salt and pepper calamari from Mai Lee. It doesn’t hurt that I get to chat with Qui. His smile just makes my day.

Josh Galliano, The Libertine

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Gingered beef salad from Mai Lee.

Josh Poletti, The Libertine

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? I crave Mai Lee every day…I wish I could go there more often. They need to be open on Monday.

Marc Del Pietro, The Block

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Mai Lee’s soups. Whichever one Qui brings out. They all are awesome.

Brian Moxey, Pastaria

Who in the St. Louis restaurant scene inspires you? Qui Tran at Mai Lee.

Cary McDowell, Winslow’s Home

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Salted fish fried rice at Mai Lee, with a little extra fish sauce.

Nate Hereford, Niche

If you were to ever relocate from St. Louis, what’s the one dish you would want back, and from where? Salt and pepper soft shell crab at Mai Lee. Qui Tran is a magician.

Matt McGuire, Central Table Food Hall

If you were to ever relocate from St. Louis, what’s the one dish you would want back, and from where? No. 147 from Mai Lee...clear noodles stir fried with mixed vegetables. I could eat it every single day, and I often do. Straightforward, clean and completely satisfying, like all of the food there. I simply need to eat there on a regular basis.

Gerard Craft, Craft Restaurants Ltd.

What’s currently your favorite meal at a restaurant in St. Louis? Was recently in Mai Lee, and Qui sent out some type of beef ceviche. It was perfect.


WATCH QUI ON FEAST TV!

Qui tells the story of how his family introduced the first Vietnamese restaurant to St. Louis decades ago and brings you behind the scenes to meet the inspiration behind it all -- his mom -- on Feast TV!

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Related to this story

Inspired by this month’s Feast 50, four of St. Louis’ most-respected culinarians – Mike Emerson of Pappy’s Smokehouse, Qui Tran of Mai Lee, Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe and Gerard Craft of Craft Restaurants Ltd. – share stories on how they got to where they are today. Plus, publisher Cat Neville demos Sidney Street Cafe’s classic dumpling dish.