Hawaiian poke chain to open in South Norwalk, Stamford

Even as Pokeworks opened this month its first Connecticut outlet for the Hawaiian delicacy poke, a Connecticut-based chain revealed an expansion to South Norwalk’s restaurant row, with another location planned for downtown Stamford.

Pokemoto plans to open at 133 Washington St. in South Norwalk, the second location in southwestern Connecticut for the franchisor after the arrival last month of a new restaurant at 1512 Post Road in Fairfield.

Both Pokemoto and Pokeworks serve variations on Hawaiian poke, created from sushi-grade salmon and tuna and other seafoods, and garnished with a range of marinades and extras like cucumber, seaweed and sesame seeds. Both chains offer versions of poke, as well, made from tofu and chicken. A regular size dish costs about $11.

Since its opening its first restaurant at Yale University last October under founders Thomas Nguyen and Gladys Longwa, Pokemoto has added outlets in Hamden and Fairfield, with a dozen more in the works in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Yale is is the perfect location for poke — the customer base is young and they want to try new things,” Nguyen told Hearst Connecticut Media on Monday at the South Norwalk restaurant under construction. “This reminds me of (that) customer base.”

Pokemoto teased the SoNo opening in a Saturday Instagram post, without specifying an opening date; Nguyen is aiming for a mid-September opening or earlier, with the restaurant to employ at least 15 people. Pokemoto is taking over the former quarters of Chocopologie, which closed in 2016 after two years at the site, with Nguyen saying the Pokemoto lease is for 10 years.

Pokemoto will become the fourth restaurant on Washington Street focused on Pacific Rim cuisine after Enchanted Szechuan, Mecha Noodle Bar and Oishi Sushi & Izakaya, with other nearby options including Kazu Japanese Restaurant on North Main Street and El Segundo on North Water Street, which has Asian “street food” offerings on its menu.

On Monday in the afternoon hours, a line of patrons ordered up poke bowls at Pokemoto’s Fairfield restaurant. For his part, Nguyen learned to make it while working in Hawaii; asked for his take on the growing appeal of poke in Connecticut and beyond, Nguyen cited the melange of fresh flavors but also the ability to create one’s own dish.

“It’s customizable — you make it your way,” he said.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman