Poke Loa makes its entrance into New Orleans’ foodscape with a minimalistic interior, offering diners the opportunity to express creativity through the step-by-step process of building a Poke bowl.
Poke has become the latest food trend to capture taste buds across the nation in recent years. With a soft opening on Friday at the corner of Louisiana Avenue and Magazine Street, it is Louisiana’s first Poke restaurant, according to Poke Loa owner Joe Reiss.
The traditional Hawaiian cuisine known as Poke, meaning “chunk,” customarily serves raw tuna and other fresh ingredients. Sometimes referred to as a deconstructed sushi roll, the traditional dish is modified and modernized while keeping its original essence.
Reiss opened Poke Loa with his sister Cecile Tanguis despite having no restaurant experience. The native New Orleanian duo was inspired after experiencing the Poke infatuation in California and realized nothing like it existed in their home state.
“The biggest void New Orleans is missing is not only something healthy but something that is quick and you can just grab it to go,” Reiss said. “[Poke Loa] kind of takes care of all the things I feel like New Orleans has been missing.”
The menu currently offers a decent selection of toppings ranging from spicy to sweet along with its signature bowls. Customers can choose from a base of white rice, brown rice or mixed greens, followed by a choice of protein including tuna, salmon, octopus and tofu.
The next step is adding the toppings. While most toppings such as the seaweed salad, baby cucumbers, other vegetables and nuts are free, there are some premium topping options like crab meat and avocado for an additional charge. Finally, customers choose their sauce. Options like ponzu, wasabi aioli, Sriracha aioli and lemon miso aioli help tie the whole meal together.
The base price without the premium toppings ranges from $11.50 to $13.50 depending on the amount of protein chosen.
The restaurant can accommodate a large number of people, offering both indoor and outdoor patio seating and is bring-your-own-beverage.
The grand opening, which offers an expanded menu featuring another food fad, acai bowls, will take place after Mardi Gras season. Eventually, Reiss and Tanguis hope to build a bar and have the fast-casual restaurant develop into a local favorite.
“I’m a native New Orleanian,” Reiss said. “I love my po-boys, and I love my hot dogs and burgers, but it’s nice to eat some food that your body thanks you for eating afterwards.”