Great Neck Plaza eatery adds onto poké bowl tradition

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After more than a year of preparation, Mr. Poké has officially opened for business. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
After more than a year of preparation, Mr. Poké has officially opened for business. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Zhong Zheng, the owner of Mr. Poké, said that poké bowls in Hawaiian tradition were usually limited to fresh fish, rice and sauce and not much else.

Zhong Zheng, 30, said he opened the restaurant to improve upon Poké and bring it to Great Neck. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Zhong Zheng, 30, said he opened the restaurant to improve upon Poké and bring it to Great Neck. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

But with the opening of Mr. Poké at 27B Great Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza, patrons might get to know poké as something that can include everything from chicken, salmon and honey wasabi to avocado and wasabi tobiko.

“We took a basic foundation of poké and added upon it so everyone can enjoy poké,” Zheng, who comes from a family of restaurateurs in Ohio and currently resides in Brooklyn, said in an interview.

At Mr. Poké, patrons custom make their own poke bowls featuring a base of either rice, salad or cha soba and proteins like tuna, Scottish salmon, shrimp, and tako.

There are also items to be mixed in like diced mango, pineapple, sweet onion, cilantro and cucumber, as well as a host of seven specially made sauces.

A staff worker at Mr. Poké explains one of the sauces to Mindy Greenberg, a real estate agent who attended the food place's ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
A staff worker at Mr. Poké explains one of the sauces to Mindy Greenberg, a real estate agent who attended the food place’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Patrons would then choose from 11 toppings like avocado, crab salad, masago, tamago – or egg omelet – and shredded carrots, before closing off with a “crunch” of crispy onion, toasted coconut, tempura flakes, shredded nori or wonton chips.

Alternatively, they could also pick from signature bowls like the Mr. Poke Special, Sweet Chili Tofu, Wasabi Tako and four other bowls, ranging in price from $9.50 to $12.50.

“Our pricing point is really low for what it is,” Zheng said.

The poké eatery had been a project more than a year in the making, Zheng said, because of a lengthy inspection and approval process outside the Village of Great Neck Plaza.

This proved to be expensive because they had to pay taxes and rent in that time, Zheng said, and some people doubted they would ever open – but he didn’t want to give up on the project.

Officials and residents stayed after Wednesday's ribbon cutting to eat bowls of custom made Poké near a sign that said "The Best Place to Eat is Together." (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Officials and residents stayed after Wednesday’s ribbon cutting to eat bowls of custom made Poké near a sign that said “The Best Place to Eat is Together.” (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

“I’m not going to lie, that [time] was pretty tough,” Zheng said, adding it was especially rewarding to open after all that time.

Zheng said his inspiration could be traced back to his friend Connor, who told him about his encounter with Poké on a trip to Hawaii, and a visit to a New York City eatery.

“I thought their stuff was pretty good, but I thought I could improve upon it, so last year in March we signed a lease in Great Neck,” Zheng said, later noting trips to other Poké eateries to get a taste for the competition. “We just opened the third week of June – it took a year and three months to get it all done, but I’m excited, it’s totally worth it.”

“We all have great confidence in our product,” Zheng added, “and I think that’s what matters most in any business.”

Mr. Poké is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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