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Poke Papa Gets Going With Lots of Protein

Fast-casual spot opens today

[Vina Sananikone]

Poke Papa founder Kerry Chao is confident District residents are going to eat up his latest hospitality venture.

“D.C. is a very healthy city,” he said, citing that diet-conscious attitude as a solid foundation for the seafood-centric restaurant opening on the outskirts of Chinatown on Thursday, April 6. Chao, who cut his teeth in fast-casual dining over a decade ago with the debut of a Pan-Asian restaurant (Okii Mama) in Columbia, Missouri, told Eater he made it his mission to try as many poke restaurants as possible on the West Coast while planning this new project.

“I really feel like it’s a tastier and healthier alternative to a salad or other types of bowls,” he said.

Chao plans to offer a variety of meal building blocks, including ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, octopus, and tofu, as well as ready mixed selections (scallop ceviche, Thai-style larb gai chicken salad), and all-natural accompaniments (pineapple, jalapeno, cilantro). “We will have a lot of protein choices,” he pledged. Chao said the restaurant will feature eight house-made sauces, and anticipates folding in seasonal specials throughout the year. At launch, he’s going with a cherry blossom-themed offering bolstered by plum wine ponzu sauce, and beet-marinated pickled daikon.

The restaurant is expected to stick with bowls at first, but Chao said other options are in the works. “We’ll probably try rolls, after we get going,” he told Eater.

Chao is also looking forward to unveiling another treat: buns filled with ice cream, and topped with exotic sweeteners such as jackfruit and rambutan. “Pretty soon,” is how he described the timetable on dessert.

Status: Opening at 11 a.m. 806 H Street NW; website.