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Bowled Over

Nakedfin Poke Bowl serves up Hawaiian trend

Instagrammers and foodies are likely familiar with the rise of poke. The Hawaiian dish has been appearing on local menus and has become a full-fledged trend in recent years, with many restaurants devoted to the dish popping up around the country.

Wilmington will soon get its own dedicated version when NAKEDFIN POKE BOWL opens at 420 Eastwood Road later this month. The menu will offer customizable versions of the raw fish salad, pronounced pokay, which typically features soy-seasoned tuna or salmon with additions such as avocado, sliced vegetables, and rice.

“It’s like sushi in a bowl,” says ALYSSA HART, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, RITCHIE.

The Harts started researching restaurant possibilities and testing poke recipes more than six months ago. Alyssa Hart managed local bars and restaurants before her current career in medical supplies. Ritchie Hart was a gym manager but will be running Nakedfin full time when it opens.

“We love to cook and actually fight about whose turn it is,” she says.

Among the things they’ve been whipping up in their kitchen? The sauces. The namesake sauce is a version of one typical of poke, with soy sauce, lemon, and some heat. There’s also a spicier version.

“In Ritchie’s favorite, the heat is really amped up,” she says.

The ponzu is a citrusy sauce often used in Japanese cooking, and her favorite is the sriracha mayo.

“I think it goes well with everything,” Alyssa Hart says.

At Nakedfin, diners will be able to choose their base, from options such as rice or salad greens, pick their protein and toppings, and add one of the house-made sauces. Protein choices will also include cooked shrimp and crab, as well as tofu.

The number of poke places, and Hawaiian restaurants in general, has doubled in the last few years, according to Foursquare. The search-and-discovery app also expects the trend to continue, and it cites a number of factors, from more Hawaiians moving away from the high cost of living on the islands, to the trending of “bowl” cuisine, to the economics of opening an eatery that doesn’t require a lot of cooking equipment and is often considered a to-go spot.

“In California, people will pick up poke to eat on the beach,” Alyssa Hart says. “It’s something that’s easy to eat anywhere with chopsticks.”

Nakedfin was chosen as a name to grab people’s attention and reflect the origin of the dish.

“The word poke means to slice or cut,” she says.

The couple is hoping the space will do that, too. The Harts are combining the Pacific cuisine with a North Carolina surf vibe and are using reclaimed wood and local surfboards to decorate their space.

“We’ve thought a lot about the design,” she says. “The floors look like the ocean, like they’re underwater.”

Ritchie Hart and his friends are also building a communal table that looks like an oversized longboard. Look for some special regional influences on the menu, as well. The restaurant plans to use seafood sourced from nearby waters and locally inspired sauces.

“We want to have some East Coast flavors,” says Alyssa Hart, co-owner of Nakedfin Poke Bowl. “We’re also experimenting with toppings, like fried onions.”

Poke also fits in with the way people want to eat now, she says. “It’s a great, super simple way to eat.”

Ritchie Hart’s healthy gym lifestyle means he gravitates to the high-protein, low-carb dish.

“It appeals to the health-conscious,” she says. “And, many people around here are. But, we will also have something to satisfy everyone.”

In addition to the customized bowls, the menu will feature signature poke dishes. Diners can get them in small and large sizes, which range in price from around $9 to $12. “We want to have some snack items, too,” she says. One possibility? Avocado boats filled with the raw fish.

The beverage choices at Nakedfin complete the aesthetic.

“Poke is trendy and kombucha is, too,” said Alyssa Hart, adding that the fermented tea will be available first by the bottle and then on tap at the restaurant. “It’s got a lot of healthy aspects and goes along with the detoxifying trend.”

Alyssa Hart also loves coconut water, and Nakedfin plans to offer different infused versions, flavored with fruits, vegetables, and flowers such as lilac and hibiscus.

“That’s how we’re adding in a little bit more of the Hawaiian element,” she says.

 

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