Say aloha to Sweetcatch Poke, the Kang Ho Dang Baekjong team and chef Lee Anne Wong’s effort to bring a more traditional version of the Hawaiian dish to New York City’s growing sea of fast casual poke restaurants. The first of three locations debuted today in Midtown East at 642 Lexington Ave., between 54th and 55th Street. It's a grab-and-go restaurant, with two lines for the lunch crowd.
Poke restaurants have spread like wildfire in 2016, serving Chipotle-style build-your-own bowls with cubes of raw fish over rice, salad, and noodles. But Wong took offense to existing players, which serve what she considers sushi bowls instead of true poke. So instead, Sweetcatch offers 12 different kinds of poke by the pound, all pre-marinated the way that poke is offered in Hawaii.
Each day, seven of the 12 will be available at the Lexington Avenue location, served over white or brown rice, mixed greens, or marinated kale. Options include tuna or salmon with a Hawaiian shoyu sauce, tuna with wasabi shoyu sauce, and salmon with a Korean chile citrus honey sauce. Prices range from $10.95 (for tofu) to $18.95 (for premium fish) a quarter pound.
Originally, Sweetcatch planned to offer custom bowls too, as a way to cater to what New Yorkers already know. At Lexington though, the team found during a pre-opening test run that most of the hundreds of people who showed up preferred poke by the pound, says owner Bobby Kwak. "Maybe two people asked for build-your-own," he says. "Everyone wanted authentic Hawaiian poke. That’s really what Sweetcatch is about." The new Midtown East location is just the beginning for the restaurant. Next month, they’ll be opening their flagship at 135 West 37th St., near Seventh Avenue. It will be two-levels and have more than 70 seats. Check out the full menu below.
Sweetcatch Poke menu (Note: this is the full menu for all locations. Lexington does not have the custom bowls, and only a selection of the 12 poke by the pound will be available.)