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Qui’s Bill Mann Explains How the Pulutan Menu Was Created

Go high with tasting rooms, low with the patio.

Qui's patio
Qui's patio
Bonjwing Lee

At Paul Qui’s flagship restaurant, there’s a menu for every price level. The eight-seated ticketed tasting room, which uses the Tock program for reservations, hovers around $120, while the main dining room’s tasting room costs around $70 (the latter also offers a vegetarian option that’s usually $55). Finally, there’s the more affordable patio- and bar-only pulutan menu, serving Filipino pub food that doesn’t cost more than $12.

Eater spoke to Bill Mann, Qui’s general manager Update, July 15: director of operations, about the ways the restaurant embodies these different price groups, what each experience brings to the diners and for the staff, and the most popular pulutan item. Mann also told Eater that the restaurant is currently in the middle of transferring over to Tock's beta system.

How did the three different culinary experiences come about?

Mann: The original concept for Qui always included the tasting room. The concepts for the main dining room, patio, and bar areas weren’t as clearly defined. Our opening menu was all a la carte from two dollars to $150. We’d just make plates of food for people who were waiting, just as a functional snack. People were coming just to hang out on the patio, so we started to develop a very limited a la carte menu. We backed into the concept of pulutan for that: Filipino, so that gave it a clear direction and vision. When we made the switch in the main dining room from a la carte to tasting was when we launched the pulutan menu, to have a clear delineation between the type of experience you can have here.

Why does Qui has this range of low to high pricing?

Mann: There hasn’t been a very clear plan from day one. We have always been committed to doing the tasting room. We wanted to go ticketed specifically because it was the most exciting way we could imagine booking a dinner reservation. We want you to get excited from the very beginning. [It’s also] the creative playground for everybody, the experimental engine for the company. Not everybody wants to come in and enjoy an eight-course tasting menu once a week. That’s hard to do, regardless of the price. We still want to be a neighborhood restaurant, and the pulutan menu is our opportunity to do that.

Dinuguan. [Photo: Qui/Facebook]

How does the kitchen approach creating dishes for the different menus?

Mann: The process is pretty much the same for all three. For pulutan, we enter into the [research and development] process for items for that menu with the idea that it’s going to be a fairly authentic representation of very traditional Filipino items. Usually something from Paul’s childhood or something that he saw in his last travel to Southeast Asia. For the main tasting room, it’s more far reaching. Oftentimes, we’re focusing on a specific ingredient. For the [ticketed] tasting room, it’s more freeform than that. Sometimes, it’s a focus on a technique [or] on an ingredient. Other times, it’s a reinterpretation of another composed dish, like an interesting twist on pudding. We back into that from some other driving influence.

Is there dish overlap on the three menus?

Mann: Absolutely. There’ve been plenty of nights where, if you dined in all three in the same night, you would’ve had that same dinuguan sauce on each menu.

What are the portions for the pulutan items like?

Mann: It’s meant to fill you up. On the smallest size, our barbecue kabobs, you’re looking at four bites. Our lumpia spring rolls, four bites. If you have one of our rice dishes, one skewer of barbecue, and one lumpia, you would be very full.

What’s the most popular pulutan menu item?

Mann: It’s probably a toss-up between the sisig [crispy pig head and fried egg] and the cheddar cheese ice cream sandwich. For a lot of people, [the sisig is] the most craveable item on that menu. You can smell it in the entire building and all over the patio when one comes out.

Qui [Closed]

1600 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78702 (512) 436-9626 Visit Website

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