Poke Parlor, an upcoming restaurant that will sell poke bowls and other fish dishes, will replace the vacancy left by smoke shop Gypsy Trader on Telegraph Avenue.
Jeffrey Wang, Poke Parlor’s owner, decided to open the establishment because he and his restaurant partners wanted to create fresh recipes for poke bowls that they weren’t seeing in pre-existing poke restaurants.
“It’s going to be a fusion of some Latin flavors with some traditional Asian (and) Hawaiian flavors,” Wang said.
Located at 2485 Telegraph Ave., the restaurant is committed to being an environmentally friendly restaurant in every aspect, Wang said, from the reclaimed wood countertops to the biodegradable containers to the food itself.
“We’re going to be using sustainably sourced seafood and locally grown produce,” Wang said. “That’s very important to us.”
Competing poke restaurants in Berkeley say their food itself is attractive enough to distinguish themselves from Poke Parlor.
Jerry Su, manager of #Poki — located at 3075 Telegraph Ave. — said despite the unorthodox use of boxes instead of traditional poke bowls, the quality of their ingredients is enough to keep #Poki relevant in Berkeley.
“We use a box, not a bowl like other people,” Su said, noting that box containers are cheaper than bowls. “I’d rather spend more money on higher quality fish. Our grade of fish is equal to or higher than that of sushi restaurants.”
Downtown Berkeley Japanese restaurant Simply Bowl does not plan to change its model in light of the new restaurant. According to Simply Bowl manager Kenny Kwong, it has been successful because it tries to maintain its food quality instead of reacting to new upstarts.
Kwong said that because the poke bowl, composed of rice and raw fish, is quite unoriginal, what distinguishes a poke restaurant is how it presents the food as well as the quality of the sauces that complement the poke bowls.
“We don’t offer just poke,” Kwong said, adding that the restaurant’s various offerings attract customers. “We have teriyaki … salad bowls and other things in general.”
Poke Parlor’s opening is not the only change for the block. The building where Poke Parlor will open has recently been remodeled to make way for new tenants. In addition, the corner space formerly occupied by longtime local bookstore Shakespeare and Co. will open as Romeo’s Coffee.
The manager of next door Caffe Mediterraneum Craig Becker said having Poke Parlor open as part of the larger restructuring of the building will help the neighborhood.
“This new building will be a welcome addition for sure,” Becker said.
Wang estimates Poke Parlor will open in late December or early next year.