In early 2017 Vihn Tran introduced Birmingham to the poké of his childhood years spent in Hawaii. Now he’s bringing the concept Over the Mountain to Edgewood in the former Sash and Beau storefront. As of printing time, he was planning to open for lunch and dinner by the end of August. Like a few of its new neighbors, Ono Poké will have burritos on their menu, but not of the Mexican sort. Read on to hear what Vihn had to say about it all.
How did you get from your first introduction to poké to opening a poke concept?
In fifth grade I moved to Hawaii from San Diego with my siblings, and we stayed at our uncle’s house. He used to make poké all the time. Poké is served everywhere Hawaii, so we had it other places as well. I later moved everywhere. I knew a lot about sushi because my brother owns sushi restaurants. I worked in restaurants and other jobs until I could make enough capital for this opportunity. It was all about taking a risk.
How would you explain what poké is to a newbie?
Poké means “chunks of fish.” We marinate it in reduced soy sauce, ginger, sesame seeds and sesame oil to balance out the fish. It’s like the taste of Hawaii. You can customize it with either salad greens or rice, and then with fresh toppings and our sauces if you want.
You were the first poké concept to open in Alabama. What was the reception like?
It was hot at the time. People eat it for the first time, and they are hooked. I knew it would be busy, but I didn’t know it would be this busy. Now at lunch time Monday to Friday we can serve almost 200 orders at the Pizitz Food Hall. We gained a brand and a clientele base. If you are doing good, you have to expand. Homewood has always been a charming community that I love, and a space in Edgewood came open. We have customers who work downtown and want to go at night and take their family. There is a lot of buzz about the new location.
What will the new Edgewood location be like?
We’re still going with our black and white theme for our space, and we will have about 45 seats. It will be fast casual, and a food runner will bring your order out to you. It will be the same menu, but we are doing a burrito as well, like a sushi burrito with a base of seaweed and white rice. We will have a small menu for beer and wine for a good price, and we will do sake too. We might add cooked shrimp and scallop options at the new location as well.
What should we order from your current menu?
Everyone likes the half brown rice and half mixed greens with ahi tuna, our top seller. The Crunch toppings are the most popular: cucumber, edamame, scallions, crunch and jalapeño with our spicy mayo and Samurai sauce, a sweet soy sauce. You can also have something lighter like the 808 bowl. We are also coming out with a Green Bowl that will have every green ingredient that’s possible.