#Poki, a new poke restaurant replacing former neighborhood cafe Mokka, held its soft opening Sunday.
The new restaurant seeks to create traditional, simplified poke boxes — which are raw fish dishes — that customers can customize with a variety of additional ingredients, according to #Poki owner Diana Lee. The restaurant comes after Lee’s husband, Jerry Su, worked as a sushi chef for about 15 years.
“(My husband) wanted to … have his own business so he can serve the product that he feels,” Lee said. “He doesn’t agree with the quality of other places … so I just said, ‘Hey, why don’t you go ahead and do this.’ ”
Lee said she visited a poke place in San Mateo and thought the idea of selling poke would be a good fit for the couple. Lee added that she wanted to “start small” with #Poki rather than open a large sushi business and said the “grab-and-go” type of store is a good fit for the area.
Because Mokka was an established business at the location, Lee said, taking over the space at 3075 Telegraph Ave. will make opening easier.
“We did have a lot of people coming by looking for Mokka,” Lee said, adding that she is excited to build up the clientele and reel customers in with the restaurant’s food.
Within a couple hours of its soft opening, the restaurant began running out of food because it wasn’t sure how much to prepare, Lee said. She added that the store plans to “readjust” for the grand opening Wednesday, with the soft opening Sunday and Monday serving as “a way for us to learn for what we need.”
Customers at the soft opening Sunday enjoyed the food #Poki served, with some looking forward to the quick-service nature of the restaurant.
“(The food) is very comparable to the poke out in Hawaii and Honolulu,” said Miles Olsen, who attended the soft opening. “You can custom make (your poke) so I think just having that option takes it that much further.”
Alana Lopez, another customer at #Poki on Sunday, said not only was the food good, but it fills a niche market, since many Asian cuisine restaurants are sometimes served at a slower pace.
“I think it’ll meet the demands of a very high-bustling industry where people, especially startups, don’t have a lot of time for lunch,” Lopez said, adding that she plans to return with friends in the future.
Similarly, neighboring businesses said they are excited about having a new restaurant on their block.
“We’re actually pretty happy about it just because I know in this surrounding there’s not that much really like (#Poki),” said LJ Yang, store manager at the nearby Edible Arrangements. “I think it’s really good for the community to have another Hawaiian-Asian mix fusion food.”
Kenny Kwong, owner of Simply Bowl — a Japanese Berkeley restaurant that also serves poke — welcomes #Poki to the neighborhood.
“It’s actually a good thing (as) a little friendly competition never hurt anything,” Kwong said. “There is something we can learn from them and something they can learn from us and hopefully, (we) can both improve from this experience.”