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Sushi Chef from Michelin-Starred Zo Quietly Plots NYC Poke Empire

Sushi Zo chef Masashi Ito apparently is part of Poke Chan

Poke Chan Poke Chan Facebook

A sushi chef behind LA import Sushi Zo has quietly gotten into the ever-trendy poke game. Chef Masashi Ito and business partner Jeremy Shevett debuted the first location of Poke Chan in Midtown in February 2017 and another one recently in FiDi. Now, Shevett tells Eater that Ito and a group of investors intend to open at least two or three more outposts of the restaurant in New York in the next year — with plans to expand to Miami and Vegas, too.

The restaurant serves $14 poke bowls with recipes created by Ito, as well as an option for custom-created versions. A “Keep It Classic” option has tuna, sweet onion, hijiki, avocado, seaweed salad, and a wasabi soy dressing, and a “Shell Life” version has a lobster salad. Create-your-own-bowls start at $13 and, like other poke restaurants, have white rice, brown rice, and greens as base options.

Shevett says that the fish comes from the same purveyor that supplies Sushi Zo, where the omakase costs about $200 per person. The fish served at Zo is more specialized, Shevett says. Poke Chan may eventually serve more upscale fish as weekly specials, which will be posted to Instagram.

Despite being a Hawaiian mainstay forever, poke has only attacked NYC with aplomb in the last year. It’s mostly been at fast-casual restaurants, but even upscale places like Cafe Boulud have dabbled with adding the dish to their menus. Many of the new restaurants boast long lines, although it’s practically impossible to tell them apart.

Ito’s also not the first high-profile chef to step into the fast-casual poke game. Last year, chef Lee Anne Wong launched Sweetcatch in collaboration with the Bobby Kwak and the team behind New York’s location of Kang Ho Dong Baekjong. She vowed to bring higher quality fish and a more authentic version of poke to the city.

Like Wong, Shevett says that he and Ito “plan on taking poke to the next level.” He adds, “The fish that you’re getting from us is the same fish you’re getting a high-end sushi restaurant in New York City.”

With the launch of a fast-casual restaurant, Ito joins the legion of upscale chefs (Mark Ladner with Pasta Flyer, Daniel Humm with Made Nice) entering the quick-service restaurant game. Sushi Zo — a highly acclaimed omakase restaurant based in Los Angeles — opened in New York at the end of 2015, and in its first year here, earned a Michelin star. Zo and its owner/chef Keizo Seki are not involved in Poke Chan.

The Poke Chan team is eyeing locations in Chelsea and the Upper East Side. Check out the full menus for the location at 100 William Street in FiDi and 315 5th Avenue in Midtown.

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