Back in January, the improbable happened: The trendiest dish of winter wasn’t a hot cocktail or comfort fare but raw fish bowls.
Restaurants serving poké — a Hawaiian dish of raw fish over rice and veggies — have been popping up all over NYC since but have little in common with the real thing, according to Bobby Kwak, who’s promising authenticity with Sweetcatch Poké Bar, a new fast-casual shop whose first location (of three) opens Nov. 21 at 642 Lexington Ave.
“I was walking around trying to find pizza, and all I see is people walking around with these little bowls,” recalls Kwak of a trip to Hawaii several years ago. “This is the equivalent of a hamburger or hot dog or pizza for Hawaiians, and it’s healthy.”
Kwak is already known in NYC for his wildly popular Korean barbecue spot Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong — which hasn’t exactly prepared him to serve poké. So he recruited a friend and fellow New Yorker, chef Lee Anne Wong, a Season 1 “Top Chef” finalist who moved to Honolulu a few years ago and heads up the Asian-influenced all-day brunch spot Koko Head Cafe.
“I needed somebody who truly understood the integrity of this product,” says Kwak. “I’m not gonna go and take a Hawaiian staple and try to recreate it myself because I wouldn’t be able to perfect it.