The 21-Year-Old College Student Behind Pōk The Raw Bar Flies Fresh Fish In On A Daily Basis To Make Sure His Guests Have The Freshest Meals Possible.
Welcome to The Quickie, our series featuring a short ‘n sweet, quick ‘n dirty interview with a local small business owner, chef or creator that we think should be on your radar.
Healthy-yet-flavorful food is definitely having its moment in Dallas right now. And right at the forefront of that trend is Brandon Cohanim, the owner and founder of Pōk The Raw Bar, an establishment that aims to provide healthy food options by striving to serve fish and produce as freshly as it possibly can.
Since opening in January, West Village restaurant daily flies in its Albacore from Fiji and Japan; its salmon from Scotland; and its yellowfin tuna from the Pacific Ocean. And as for its produce? Well, that all comes from local farmers.
This methodology stems from Cohanim’s desire to give Dallas a fresh and healthy take on food — something he noticed the city lacked he moved here from Los Angeles to attend college at Southern Methodist University.
That was just two and a half years ago, by the way. And, yes, you can stop doing the math in your head, Cohanim’s still in college.
And, fortunately for us, he found time between class and running his restaurant to speak to us about what its like to get into restaurant ownership at such a young age, what he think s about Dallas’ blooming poke scene and what we can expect to see come out of his kitchen next.
Remind everybody of the Pōk backstory. Where’d it come from, what’s your background and what made you decide to get in the poke biz?
About two and half years ago, I moved to Dallas from Los Angeles to attend SMU as a freshman. Poke was just beginning to become a popular trend in the dining scene around the country — but, in L.A., it was a staple in my diet. As soon as I got to Dallas, I noticed that there was not even one poke concept, and that there was also a severe lack of healthy food options. I knew poke was the perfect solution to that. At the time, I was only 19 with a passion for hospitality. I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet in the industry. I found a great chef who educated me about Hawaiian/Japanese-style food and helped me create our menu and get the restaurant off the ground. Once I found the perfect location and secured the lease, we opened four months later. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary!
What might folks not know about you and/or your poke bowls?
What you might not know about me is that, besides being a 21-year-old and full-time restaurateur, I’m enrolled full time at SMU majoring in advertising. I’m also a passionate heliskier and have traveled across the world to experience different slopes. Recently, I traveled to Haiti on a humanitarian mission to help provide meals for malnourished children and families and also educate them on how they can utilize what they have to make nutritious meals. Fun fact: I was able to order cases of alcohol [for the restaurant] before I was legally allowed to purchase any for myself! As for our poke bowls, sourcing and quality are our main priorities. We only use the best ingredients — from fish to produce. We get fish flown in fresh daily and, if we receive something that’s just OK, we send it back. With our produce, we source as much as possible from local farms, and almost everything on our menu is organic.
Do you cook for yourself at home at all? If so, what do you make?
I eat out a lot, but every now and then I cook at home when I have the time. Italian food is always my go-to. I love making different types of pastas, chicken and fish.
Since you ear out so much, what’s your favorite spot?
For lunch, I would say probably the either Hillstone or The Honor Bar. At the moment, my favorite spot for dinner is Town Hearth in the Design District.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
I have a new exciting, raw concept in the works, which will be open by August at the latest…
We’re stoked to hear more about that. In the meantime, tell us about the omakase situation you’ve got going on at Pōk?
We recently relaunched our exclusive, five-seat Raw Bar. It’s still omakase-style, but the Trust Me menu is available for $24 and is served in just 30 minutes. This new fast-dining trend is popping up in popular restaurants across the country from New York to L.A. Our chef guides diners through their experience of six pieces of nigiri and two hand rolls, with the option of additional specials. The reservation process is super simple — you can make them on OpenTable — but we also accept walk-ins if space is available.
Awesome! What’s next for Pōk The Raw Bar?
We’re working on expanding Pōk to two new locations within the next year. Both in the DFW!
Cover image courtesy of Brandon Cohanim. Know another food business worth highlighting in this space? Message foodbitch! Like a good cover band, she takes requests.