Sometimes, a town doesn’t really know it had a gap in its dining scene until that very thing arrives. So it is with poké bowls and Huntington village.
Kai Poké opened on Main Street in late July, and lines are already a constant inside the spare takeout spot, which resembles a made-to-order salad bar with lettuce and tomatoes replaced by cubed, marinated raw fish, rices and 35 toppings. It is the second poké specialist to open on Long Island in the last few weeks (the other is Shiny Coffee Healthy Poke in Hicksville).
Brothers Jacob and Coleman Meier are behind the venture, which was partly inspired by a trip they took to San Diego five years ago. “We instantly fell in love with poké, and this authentic Hawaiian shop that was doing it right,” said Jacob Meier, of the raw-fish bowls that originated in Hawaii and are taking the fast-casual dining scene by storm.
Back at home, the Merrick natives took to sourcing fresh fish and making poké in their kitchens, “and whenever we’d make a batch, family members would ask us to make extra and pay for it,” Meier said.
Both Meiers worked in other industries — finance for Jacob, fitness for Coleman — while they planned a possible food venture together. Though barbecue was under consideration, poké eventually won out — especially after Jacob Meier witnessed its surging popularity in New York City.
The Meiers chose Huntington “because we love the community and thought it would be the perfect location for one of Long Island’s first poké bars,” Meier said; they leased the space where Osaka Sushi used to be before a 2014 fire gutted the building.
The Meiers met with numerous seafood distributors during their search for high-quality fish, settling on ahi (aka bigeye) tuna sourced from South Korea and salmon that is farmed in Norwegian rivers. The fish is “super frozen” before shipping, or frozen to -76 Fahrenheit soon after harvesting, a process said to preserve freshness more than regular freezing.
The Meiers defrost, debone and cube up to 120 pounds of that fish per day in the back of Kai Poké, then marinate much of it in a Hawaiian-influenced blend of soy sauce, pineapple juice, toasted sesame-seed oil, and fresh ginger and garlic.
Regular-sized bowls are $11 and large bowls are $14, and come with a base of brown or white rice, quinoa or mixed greens and a choice of ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp or tofu. Toppings range from mango and avocado to tobiko, seaweed salad, crushed wonton noodles and macadamia nuts — and then each bowl is finished with a sauce such as ponzu or wasabi-aioli.
Though most people take the bowls to go, Kai Poké has a handful of tables; eat-in bowls are made from fallen palm-leaf bowls.
Kai Poké is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Kai Poké, 328 Main St., Huntington, 631-888-3188.