Poke, the Hawaiian raw fish salad, has a home in New Orleans with the opening of Poke Loa (3341 Magazine St., 504-309-9993; www.eatpokeloa.com).
The restaurant has a Chipotle- esque build-your-own bowl setup. Diners choose a base of white or brown rice or mixed greens and choose two ($11.50) or three ($13.50) scoops of protein such as salmon, yellowtail, tuna, octopus, spicy tuna or tofu. Then they add sauces and toppings, including crabmeat, cucumbers, tamari, lemon-miso mayonnaise, chili paste, cilantro, sesame seeds, jalapeno or pickled ginger.
A menu of designed bowls includes a vegetable bowl featuring tofu, mixed greens, avocado, seaweed salad and tamari. A salmon bowl is topped with crabmeat, green onions, sesame seeds, cucumbers and ponzu. The deluxe King Loa Bowl ($15) has salmon, tuna, crabmeat, avocado, edamame, seaweed salad, cilantro, sesame seeds, lemon miso aioli and red, orange and wasabi tobiko.
Poke Loa is run by a group of partners including brother-and-sister team Joe Reiss and Cecile Hardy Tanguis. Reiss spent several years working in Southern California, where he discovered poke. He brought his sister to the West Coast and introduced her to several restaurants that served poke, and she was taken by the fast-casual concept.
"The food was so good and so fresh, and healthy too," Tanguis says. "I could instantly see why everyone in Southern California wanted to eat that."
The group consulted with James Beard award-winning Hawaiian chef Sam Choy, who was a good friend of the late Paul Prudhomme. That connection appealed to New Orleans natives Tanguis and Reiss. After scouting more than 15 poke spots in Los Angeles, the group flew to Seattle where they dined at Choy's poke-themed restaurant and started planning their own menu.
Tanguis says the restaurant will add acai smoothie bowls topped with fruit.
The team took over the spot formerly occupied by Jamba Juice and have renovated it to include bar seating. There is table seating inside and on the patio. Poke Loa is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.