Seaside Poke is now open in East Downtown dishing out a variety of elevated poke bowls like this Kani Bake rendition.
Seaside's truffle yellowtail bowl (Photo by Dragana Harris)
The spicy tuna poke bowl
Seaside's tuna aioli bow is made with spicy mayo, thai chili, shallots, and cucumbers. (Photo by Dragana Harris)
The chopped tuna bowl at Seaside Poke
The classic tuna bowl
The salmon ponzu bowl at Seaside Poke is dressed with ponzu, orange, edamame, and garlic.
Has any food craze flourished quite like America’s poke obsession? The traditional Hawaiian raw fish bowl has taken off in a major way, inspiring a plethora of poke eateries across the United States, and Houston’s restaurant scene is taking notice in a big way.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a part of town without a poke restaurant — from Sugar Land to Montrose, this food trend’s reach continues to expand. And now, the newly opened Seaside Poke is tackling the East Downtown corridor.
“After experiencing poke for the first time in California, I knew the casual concept would be a welcome addition to Houston’s dining scene,” Seaside co-owner Vu Bui says. “With all the bright, light flavors of sushi but at a more affordable price point, it’s like the next-gen sushi bowl — fresh, wholesome, and flavorful.
“The popularity of poke here and nationwide is not surprising in the least.”
Juan Cao, Kristy Nguyen, and Alex Boquiren are the other co-owners of the new EaDo restaurant.
So how will Seaside stand out in Houston’s growing sea of poke? By staking its claim as anything but your average poke, forgoing traditional flavor combinations for bolder, inventive bowls.
While most poke outposts tout classic ingredients such as shoyu, nori, wasabi, and masago as fish toppings, Seaside takes it up a notch with offbeat toppers such as fried shallots, torched crispy rice, truffles, puffed rice, and gochuchang.
“Our signature menu will have traditional styles, but with a twist,” says chef Vuthy Srey, one-half of Seaside’s head chef duo. “We’ll be adding our own flair.”
The spout of innovation comes as no surprise considering Seaside’s head chefs are bringing some major restaurant resumes to the table.
There’s chef Srey who’s flexed his culinary chops at the popular Aka Sushi House before training under master sushi chef Chris Kinjo at MF Sushi.
Then there’s chef Tai Nguyen, who served as lead chef when Seaside’s operation was merely a pop-up. He also worked at Fish & Knife, Soma Sushi, and acclaimed Japanese hotspot Uchi. Nguyen’s Vietnamese upbringing has a huge influence throughout Seaside’s menu.
“I grew up cooking with my mom who is Vietnamese, so we always used ingredients like shallots,” he says. “That’s where the fried shallots come from. We thought they’d be the perfect finish to a poke bowl.”
“We really wanted to take that idea of poke further,” Nguyen says. “We’re very transparent about what we do, as far as how it’s farm-to-table and where we source our produce [and fish]. We pride ourselves on sourcing from area farms and will pay homage to our farmers in the restaurant. We are also using seasonal ingredients that reflect our culinary philosophy.”
On the menu: eight signature bowls including standouts such as the classic tuna with shoyu, shallot, garlic, and onion (we swapped the tuna for the salmon); the truffle yellowtail topped with puff rice, cilantro, shoyu, and ito togarashi; and the kani bake — the star of which is the torched kani enhanced with charred crispy rice.
If you want to assert a bit more control over your poke, Seaside also offers a make-your-own bowl option. And for dessert, a trio of technicolor crispy rice treats in flavors matcha, ube (a purple yam), and pandon.
Look for a second Seaside Poke to hit the Houston restaurant scene later this year.
Seaside Poke, 2118 Lamar Street, seasidepoke.com.