Sweetcatch Poke — from the team behind the NYC outpost of Korean barbecue hotspot Kang Ho Dang Baekjong and Top Chef alum chef Lee Anne Wong — is beginning its expansion plan, with three new locations planned to open this spring. The first of them, a new 20-seat location near Bryant Park, will open on Monday.
Located at 60 West 44th St., near Sixth Avenue, the Bryant Park Sweetcatch Poke will offer pre-marinated poke by weight in a similar way to the small poke shops in Hawaii, just like the original location on Lexington Ave. Sweetcatch will also open a new 20-seat location at 125 Maiden Ln., near Pearl Street in FiDi on March 19th and a 10-seat location at 66 Kenmare St., between Mulberry and Mott streets in Nolita on April 1st.
When launching the original Sweetcatch in 2016, Wong called the made-to-order, Chipotle-style of poke bowls trending around New York in 2016 a “cousin” of poke. “It’s more like a sushi bowl, using a lot of non-traditional ingredients,” she argued.
At Sweetcatch, fish options change seasonally and are pre-marinated and salted, which is supposed to yield a firmer texture. Toppings and add-ons can still be purchased separately. The initial plan for the original location was to offer custom bowls in the style of the majority of poke restaurants in NYC, but upon opening, the poke-by-the-pound model proved popular so they ditched the other bowls.
Besides poke by the pound, the new Bryant Park location will add Hawaiian drinks like mango passionfruit juice, iced matcha lattes, and peach lemonade that are made in-house. It also adds “hurricane popcorn,” a popcorn mix made with nori and rice crackers, and a new look that includes a white-brick interior and lights made with netting.
According to owner Bobby Kwak, he and Wong will keep the expansion plan going and have a five-store plan in the works for the restaurant. “Our mission is to represent Hawaiian poke the right way,” Kwak says.
The poke craze took off in NYC in 2016 and has persisted with consistent openings in almost every neighborhood. Just this week, California-based poke microchain North Shore Poké Co. made its East Coast debut in Murray Hill. A couple other of these fast-casual restaurants also have chef names attached to them, including Poke Chan and Chikarashi.