Chow Down In Milwaukee

Restaurant Reviews

Fresh Fin Brings Hawaii Home

New restaurant FreshFin Poké, located at 1806 E. North Ave., opened its doors on January 12. Its owners are Nate Arkush and a silent partner who prefers to remain anonymous.

The name was chosen to suggest the fresh vegetables and fish, and fresh house-made sauces being served, says Arkush. And the word “Poké” comes from Hawaii. Poké is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. “Here, we’ve transformed the appetizer into a full meal. They’re like deconstructed sushi bowls,” says Arkush.
Since the restaurant has opened, business has continuously grown. “It’s been a much better response than expected,” says Arkush. “We now have a lot more regulars than expected, too. Some of them come in four to five times a week.”

What with the administrative and financial work of owning a business, serving customers during busy periods, making bowls and sauces when needed and doing whatever else is needed to keep the food coming out quickly and tasting great, Arkush is very busy. “I spend a lot of time at the restaurant,” he says. “It’s very important to make sure that we’re exceeding customer expectations.”

Along with Arkush and the general manager, Tucker Pope, FreshFin Poké employs about 15 workers. “We have a phenomenal team. I attribute most of our success to them,” says Arkush.

The Interior
The restaurant is well put together. As you walk in the door, a short half wall leads you to the counter to place your order. After placing your order, you turn around to an open dining area with retro, but comfortable chairs surrounding square tables, each with a small foliage plant on it. There is one bench on the east side wall you could also sit at for dining.

If you seek sunlight while eating, there is also the option of sitting in front of a large, almost ceiling-high window facing North Avenue. These are bar-style seats, with a high tabletop the length of the window and long-legged chairs.

The ambience feels clean and open with high ceilings. There are no paintings and photographs cluttering up the walls, but there is one simple, large artwork featuring ropes, hanging gracefully on the West wall.

The Food
FreshFin Poké serves up five signature bowls, along with the option to build your own bowl. To build your own, you first chose one or two proteins; these include Ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, chicken, or vegan, which comes with Shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, and avocado.

Then choose your base, either white or brown rice, or a bed of mix greens. After that, you can choose one or two sauces. These include spicy ginger, cilantro lime, sriracha aioli, sweet shoyu, ponzu fresh (citrus/soy), or the classic (soy/sesame).

Finally, you choose your add-ins and toppings, ranging from carrots, mango, cilantro, and jalapenos, to crispy onions, toasted coconut, pickled ginger, and wasabi — just to name a few.

 “The number one seller is the Spicy Tuna Bowl,” says Arkush. “The base is a sticky white rice, which is the traditional sushi rice.” The bowl contains Ahi tuna, edamame, crispy onions, jalapenos, with sriracha aioli and sweet shoyu drizzled on top and garnished with tobiko, a Japanese word for the flying fish roe, or eggs.

For those used to tuna fish sandwiches and the like, this dish gives a whole new meaning to tuna. “We use high quality tuna loin,” says Arkush — good-sized whole chunks of tuna and extremely tender, delightfully complimented by the sweet and spicy sauces.

The Mango Tango bowl has become a second favorite to the Spicy Tuna. “It’s a great summer dish,” says Arkush. “Sales have increased as it gets hotter.” The dish is very light and refreshing. And healthy, the protein in the dish being Atlantic Canadian Salmon.

The salmon sits on brown rice and is paired with mango, edamame, avocado, cilantro, drizzled with spicy ginger and sweet shoyu, and topped with crispy onion and tobiko. I could easily see myself sitting outside on a hot day with this dish. It’s not overwhelming, and has a very crisp, cool flavor. The succulent salmon paired pleasantly with crispy onion, giving you a cool sensation in your mouth.

“A favorite among our team is the Curry Coconut Shrimp,” says Arkush. This bowl is based with brown rice, which holds up well with the curry aioli. The shrimp is combined with carrots, mango, toasted coconut, cilantro, crispy onions and the curry aioli. The shrimp is served cold, which gives the bowl a nice crisp sensation.

Most people think of curry as spicy-hot, since curry is a blend of hot chilies, turmeric and other spices. In this dish, you certainly get the flavor of the curry aioli, but by no means was this a spicy dish. Perhaps it is masked by the delightful pairing of toasted coconut and cilantro and the splash of freshness from the carrots and mango.

One of the non-seafood bowls the restaurant offers is Cilantro Chicken. Made with white meat and topped with the cilantro lime sauce, it’s citrusy and refreshing. I loved the combination of the two; it reminded me of the citrus grilled chicken I loved when I was young. This is a great option for those looking to get more protein in their diet. Along with the high-protein chicken it also sits on a bed of kale, with carrots and edamame. In addition to the cilantro lime drizzle, there’s also a spicy ginger sauce – another great combination with chicken.

Finally, the Zen bowl. For vegans or anyone who doesn’t eat meat, this is the way to go. This bowl is more soy focused, more Asian than the others, with Shitake mushrooms, roasted sweet potato, avocado, carrots and topped with their classic (soy and sesame) sauce as well as the cilantro lime.

The Future
This is the first location for FreshFin Poké, but since it’s gotten such a good response, Arkush and Thomas are looking at two other locations to expand their business, including the Third Ward.

The plan, says Arkush, is “to use this restaurant as a template, with succulent plants on each table, and keeping the clean, fresh look, as well as the open layout.”
FreshFin Poké is open every day from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

--Amanda Maniscalco--


1806 E North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
FB: @freshfin
11 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily
Paid/Meter street parking
Reservations not needed
Additional locations: 316 N. Milwaukee St., Milwaukee, WI 53202

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