It was only a matter of time before the poké craze brought Sheldon Simeon to the mainland.
The “Top Chef” fan favorite (twice over) is bringing a taste of his homeland of Hawaii and his Filipino heritage to the Coco Bora Bowl at Pokéworks, the uber-popular shop from California. (In case you don’t know, poké is a bowl of marinated raw fish over rice with various toppings.)
The chain’s first location near Herald Square has been overrun since its debut last winter, and a second location is finally opening at 21 E. 15th St. just off Union Square on March 29. A third is coming to the Grand Central area in April.
“The Coco Bora Bowl is a take on the traditional Southern Filipino dish kinilaw,” Simeon explains. Coconut is a popular ingredient in the southern Philippines and makes three appearances in the bowl as coconut milk, coconut vinegar and coconut jellies. (“I love taking an ingredient and then using that as inspiration for a dish.”) Keeping the creaminess in check is a gentle kick from sambal — “the wiser, older brother of sriracha” — lime juice, cilantro, with ginger and red chilis for “that surprise element.”
The most exciting ingredient in the bowl for Simeon is the fish: bora, also known as mullet, is a mild white fish new to Pokéworks. It has excellent sustainability bona fides and is popular in Hawaii because it can live in fresh and saltwater, keeping shorelines clean by feeding on algae — but that can carry a stigma.
In person, Sheldon Simeon is exactly the mellow, friendly guy who's been voted Fan Favorite both times he’s competed on Bravo’s “” in 2010 and this year, finishing third both times. Ask him about the show though, and something flares up behind his eyes.
Pokéworks is looking to counter that, and criticism of poké’s impact on stressed fish populations, by sourcing wild-caught fish from the East Coast and having chefs like Simeon (future collaborations may also happen) give them a fresh spin.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, use underutilized fish that people might not know about or they have an idea about, and we make something delicious with it,” says Simeon. “It’s our responsibility to make it sustainable as well as delicious.”
Bora is available to add to your customizable bowl beginning today at both Pokéworks locations. The Coco Bora Bowl will launch mid-April.