As the world’s craving for sushi grows, “Poke’” is a buzz word that has been turning heads. Hawaiian in root, it means “to slice or cut” and refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish. Poke has been part of the Polynesian culture since its inception. One wouldn’t imagine Buffalo, New York, would be a spot for fresh seafood, though that is exactly what you get at the new Fresh Catch Poke Company (FCPC).
Owners Mike Tobin, Justin and Ashley Draper partnered on this concept to bring the west coast food trend to the Western New York food scene. They are looking to take the fast-casual model to the next level of upscale simplicity. The importance to the Hawaiian people is not just the food’s freshness, but sustainability is their way of life. Those principles are not lost on the group at FCPC, when getting their fish flown in directly from Hawaii almost daily. “I can place an order at 3 AM and by 11 AM the next day we are cubing fresh Hawaiian fish for our Poke Bowls,” owner Mike Tobin stressed.
“Freshness is only half of it. I think from a customer perspective, they are wowed by what seafood is like when it’s truly fresh and it’s sourced with sustainable and best practices in mind. We partnered with some amazing fishermen out of the Pacific to adhere to those principles,” continued Tobin.
The food reflects that. Six traditional bowls ($10.95), a pair of deluxe bowls ($14.95), or choose the build-your-own option ($10.95 or Large $13.95). It’s a five-step process:
- Choose your base. If it’s your first time, try the Bamboo rice; it’s straight fire! They also have some lower carb options to go that route. (cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles)
- Plenty of sexy proteins to choose from as well! Hawaiian Ahi Tuna, Faroe Island Salmon, Hawaiian Nairagi, Shrimp, Antibiotic free chicken and Tofu.
- Sauces, all of which are made in house and completely vegan.
- Some cool finishers here. Wasabi peas, watermelon radish & crushed hot Cheetos are a few of the stand outs to me.
BTW: The health conscious should enjoy these selections even more as almost every bowl will have less than 10 grams of fat! No heavy fillers with the homemade sauces.
The beverage selection is solid as well: Cold pressed juices and kombucha from a local supplier.
Getting to the good stuff… two Community Beer Works brews on draft; six Hawaiian beers; nine wines (all are biodynamic and follow sustainable practices); and sake in a can.
The man behind the scenes is no stranger to the kitchen. 2/2 Inthalasy (no that’s not a typo) who is like the “Madonna” or “Prince” of chefs in Buffalo. You know him by just one name. All the recipes are a collaboration of Tobin and the brainchild chef of Laotian decent. I have been enjoying 2/2’s food going way back when he was at Osaka. Where he learned the art of filleting raw fish. Formerly the chef at O Restaurant and Kaydara, he has now transitioned back to the art of filleting fish. Reiterating to me the importance of quality, “Our name is Fresh Catch, and we won’t serve anything less than that,” said 2/2. He also wants to point out that they don’t just serve fish, adding “We’re poke first, but we want to be able to introduce different protein sources to our customers.”
Tobin understands how the market has changed. “Trends in food have changed. People these days have only fifteen to twenty minutes to eat. They are looking for good healthy food quickly. We have to cater to that crowd. Not everyone has the ability to spend two hours at dinner every night. We’re not just a fast casual. We don’t just want people to come, eat and leave. They can hang out in a relaxed environment or even have an affordable and healthy date night here as well.”
FCPC is not a sushi restaurant, but the fish is sashimi grade. The fish itself isn’t where the similarities end for sustainability at FCPC. Since day one, they have been steadfast in their green initiative: doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint on the environment. Serving all of their food in biodegradable bowls made from corn, composting everything they can, and donating the compost to a local farm called Always Something, who then feeds his animals with the scraps. Even the eggs for the homemade spicy mayo come from his farm! I am a huge fan of sushi and even bigger fan of what FCPC is doing for the environment.