Aloha, Lunch

Hawaiian import poké hits NYC

New Yorkers who are still hesitant to dine at Chipotle in the wake of the E. coli outbreak now have yet another fast casual lunch solution. Indeed, a spate of quick-serve eateries serving poké, the classic Hawaiian dish of sliced, raw fish and various mix-ins, is giving rise to a new dining trend in Manhattan. And with winter finally having arrived to the city, a taste of the tropics is proving to be an idyllic mid-day escape from desk life.


Opened last month in Chelsea by a pair of former money managers, Wisefish Poké offers counter service poké sourced from responsible seafood vendors, such as Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. Diners can customize bowls according to their own tastes, but for those who prefer to leave recipe orchestration to the professionals, a menu of “house favorites” has done the work for them. Selections include the Heat Wave (salmon, cucumber, house herb mix, jalapeño, scallion, spicy citrus shoyu) and the Hawaii Style (ahi tuna, sweet onion, hijiki, scallion, classic sauce). For the base, diners can choose from white rice, brown rice, and even a paleo-friendly zucchini spaghetti option.


CA-based poké chain Pokéworks opened its first NYC outpost in December. Like Wisefish, it offers a menu of chef-designed poké, with options such as Spicy Ahi (Ahi tuna, sriracha aioli, green & sweet onion, cucumber, masago) and Wasabi Shrimps and Scallops (sous vide shrimp & scallops, green & sweet onion, cucumber, masago, wasabi aioli). For the non-seafood eaters, the restaurant also serves Chicken Poké and Tofu Poké. A build-your-own menu lets diners customize poké wraps and salads, in addition to the more traditional rice-based bowls. Toppings include everything from crab salad and avocado to roasted macadamia nuts and wonton crisps.


Chefs Deuki Hong and Lee Anne Wong have mastered Korean barbeque at their successful upscale restaurant Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, but now want to offer a more everyday type of dining experience. Rather than introduce another Korean eatery, the duo is launching Sweetcatch Poké Bar, a poké chain that will build on extensive research they conducted not only in Hawaii but also in Los Angeles, where the dish has become quite popular among sushi fans. Sweetcatch will serve both traditional Hawaiian-style poké (raw fish marinated for an extended period before serving) and LA-style (marinade poured over raw fish immediately before serving).