Brace yourselves, Carmel: Poke is coming

A poke bowl made by Alessia Ucelli with avocado, fresh seafood, seaweed, shredded carrots, cucumbers with rice.

BY ASHA JOHNSTON

In the Crossroads across from r.g Burgers is Carmel Poke Co., scheduled to open Dec. 12, serving poke, buddha bowls and shoyu chicken with local salmon, crab and albacore, along with kombucha on tap, beer, wine, sake and other non-alcoholic beverages, while entertaining with music and surf movies.

“We are selling top-quality, healthy food,” Carmel Poke Co. manager Brian Gorrell says, “with a friendly, laidback environment.”

Gorrell’s wife and company co-owner Alessia Ucelli recalls that when they owned Banzai Sushi Bar in Haleiwa, Hawaii, the family often ate poke bowls at work.

“Poke bowls are what we used to eat every day at the restaurant as the employees’ meal, and I was never healthier than when I was under the poke diet,” Ucelli recounts.

Gorrell mentions that Banzai Sushi Bar was the first sushi bar on the northshore of Hawaii.

“We sold it in 2009 when we moved to Carmel, and it is still operating as one of the most popular restaurants there to this day,” Gorrell reflects.

Poke Lab, another Poke restaurant in Monterey County, was formerly the closest poke restaurant for Carmel residents. Gorrell, who lives in Carmel, soon realized that a poke restaurant in Carmel was in high-demand and decided to open up a new poke restaurant more accessible to the residents of Carmel.

“We live in Carmel, and it didn’t take long after our first experience at this new-style poke restaurant to realize that we needed one of these on this side of the hill,” Gorrell says. “We decided we should probably get back in the game.”

Gorrell’s family owns Carmel Sea Harvest, a local restaurant and fish market that will be providing supplies for Carmel Poke Co.

“They are a top-notch seafood market who deal with the freshest, best quality fish and local produce,” Gorrell says.

Ucelli explains that she has a love for seafood, and hopes for Carmel Poke Co. to pose as a healthy option for a quick lunch and dinner. She explains that customers can create their own poke bowls, along with the option to choose poke bowls from a conventional menu such as The Lake Pacific Local, which combines local crab, salmon, albacore and tuna.

“I felt that there was a demand in our area for quick health food without having the hassle of sitting and dining like in a sit down restaurant,” Ucelli mentions.

Caue Marques, Ucelli and Gorrell’s son and a junior at Carmel High school, shares his excitement for getting his first job at Carmel Poke Co. and for his parents in the opening of their restaurant.

“It’s good food with lots of fresh poke and a nice laidback environment,” Marques says.

Gorrell hopes to provide healthy food to the community and looks to create a happy atmosphere for both the customers and employees.

Carmel Poke Co. is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.