December 15, 2015 – Say aloha to a new Hawaiian concept fast-casual restaurant called the Poke Lab coming to Alvarado St. in downtown Monterey next month. The brainchild of Monterey native Joey Nguyen, the Poke Lab will feature customized rice or salad bowls with your choice of tuna, salmon, shrimp or tofu poke and a variety of sauces and toppings.
“It’s something new, something different and it’s a healthier alternative,” says Nguyen, who is also part owner in a similar restaurant called the Poki Bowl in San Jose, which opened last summer.
Growing up, Nguyen used to travel back and forth to Hawaii with his family to visit relatives frequently. He says poke is available in every supermarket and deli there, but that the flavors and level of heat were not always to his liking. So he got the idea of a do-it-yourself poke bowl, a la Chipotle.
The San Jose restaurant was a quick hit and Nguyen is hoping to repeat that success in Monterey. “Nobody really does poke here, maybe just for small appetizers in some places,” he says. “Eating raw or cleanly cooked food is a lighter choice for diners, rather than going back to work after a heavy meal and not being able to concentrate.”
Tuna and salmon poke will be served raw, while shrimp and tofu will be cooked, with a choice of brown or white rice or salad. Toppings include avocado, crabmeat mix, edamame, ginger, wasabi, Masago eggs, seaweed mix and sesame seeds; a bowl will cost between $8-10.
The Poke Lab will be located at 475 Alvarado St. in Monterey, in a space that formerly housed Edible Arrangements (no relation to Edible Monterey Bay). He is aiming to open in mid-January, 2016.