After her stint on “Top Chef,” Lee Anne Wong has had much professional success, including the opening of her Hawaii restaurant Koko Head Cafe. After three years of living on the islands, Wong noted her disappointment in NYC’s selection of poke; though it’s become a huge trend with shops on every corner, the celebrity chef saw that it just does not measure up to the authentic poke of Hawaii. That’s why she decided to open a line of fast casual poke restaurants called Sweetcatch Poke. The restaurant’s first three locations will open this fall in Midtown.
Wong claims that New York poke is more like a sushi bowl and often contains inauthentic ingredients. She will bring an authentic taste of Hawaii to the city by selling the poke by the pound, pre-marinating the fish, and changing offerings based on the season. In addition to regular poke, the shops will also sell bowls containing toppings and grains that New Yorkers have grown to love. Customers can also enjoy traditional Hawaiian snacks and beer with their fish.
At about $8 for a quarter pound of fish, Wong admits that her shops will be on the more expensive end of poke places in the city. However, she justifies these higher prices by committing to using local and/or ethically sourced fish and serving only the freshest ingredients. Some other shops gas their fish to keep its color and disguise its age, something Wong will not do. She doesn’t seem bothered by grumbles about her prices, though. “I don’t want the customer who wants to pay as little money as possible to put raw fish in their body,” she says.