Poke is her passion.
That’s why Brittany Walshaw, a Reno native who has returned after a decade in Las Vegas and the Bay Area, just opened Pola Poke Bowls on Oct. 27.
The restaurant — in the West Plumb Lane space that previously housed BFF Cafe and Emerald City Cafe — serves house bowls and build-your-own bowls inspired by poke (PO-kay), the classic Hawaiian salad of raw fish. Pola is the Hawaiian word for bowl.
POLA POKE BOWLS
Address: 3594 W. Plumb Lane, at South McCarran Boulevard
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
On the web: Visit here
“I fell in love with poke when I lived in Las Vegas and the Bay Area,” said Walshaw, 32, “and I always wanted to come back to Reno and start a small business. Not only is poke one of my favorite foods to eat, but this concept was something I felt I could handle and put together.”
The restaurant also offers drinks made with coffee from local Stone Mother roasters and four bowls anchored by açai berries, a South American fruit said to have anti-againg properties.
Choose your protein
Pola Poke Bowl opens as Reno continues to do its bit for the mainland poke craze of the past several years.
Earlier this year, Poke King set up shop in Northwest Reno, while Finbomb Sushi Burrito & Poke Bar arrived in Midtown. Bluefin Poke, meanwhile, is going into the old Le Crêpe Café on South Virginia Street — and all over town, even restaurants not devoted to poke offer appetizer versions of the dish.
At Pola Poke, folks assemble their bowls by choosing a base (greens or rice), a protein (tuna and five others), a sauce (eight total), and toppings that range from corn to pickled ginger to crunchy garlic bits in spicy chili oil.
“It’s the most delicious thing,” Walshaw said. “I feel like it’s our secret ingredient.”
The menu also includes five house bowls mixed to order.
The aloha bowl mingles white rice, tuna, scallions, pineapple, sesame shoyu and other ingredients. Chicken bulks up an otherside bowl — the other side being the reason the chicken crossed the road — “because not everyone likes raw fish,” Walshaw said.
Mixed greens, white rice, tuna, salmon, spicy crab, edamame, seaweed salad, cucumber, scallions, a ponzu of pineapple and togarashi spices, and a finishing flurry of coconut star in the vacation bowl.
“We did a little test kitchen at my house with my family and friends, and these were the most popular ingredients,” Walshaw said. “We added everything to the aloha bowl that people liked the most.”
Poke bowls can be ordered ahead online or at the restaurant for sit-down dining or take-out (coffee and açai bowls only can be ordered in house). Delivery of poke bowls will begin soon, Walshaw said.
“It being raw fish, we’re doing our own delivery. The fish needs to be fresh, the rice needs to be warm, what’s chilled needs to stay cool. We want delivery customers to have the same experience as if they came to the restaurant.”
Re-use is part of the Pola Poke Bowls model. To-go containers are compostable or biodegradeable, Walshaw said. Business cards for the restaurant are made using cotton waste from T-shirt manufacturing. Menus can be checked to indicate ingredients for build-your-own bowls, then wiped and used again.
A tropical spirit informs more than the poke bowl. The dining room features a carved Hawaiian tiki mask, rattan chairs, bamboo fixtures and potted palms.
Walshaw also is planning to display Hawaiian memorabilia like a pineapple plantation map, airmail Clippergrams sent back home by tourists, and vintage menus from Hawaiian cruises.
No word yet on whether those menus offered poke.
Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media. Join @RGJTaste on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You also can subscribe here to The Reno Taste, a free food and drink newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox.