The poké trend has taken Milwaukee by storm.
Just a year and a half ago, the city welcomed Freshfin Poké to the East Side. Since then, the local restaurant has seen expansion to the Third Ward, with restaurants in Brookfield and Madison on the way. Meanwhile, Aloha Poké opened its doors in the Third Ward. And Fusion Poké will make its debut on the East Side this week (stay tuned for a first look soon).
Later this summer, Wauwatosa will get in on the action. R&R Poké, named for owners Ren Zhang and his wife Rachel Zhao, will open in the next couple of months at 1460 Underwood Ave. in the former home of The Flower Lady.
Born in Southern China, Zhang grew up in the restaurant industry. His family moved to the U.S. when he was 13 years old. Over the years, they owned and operated a number of restaurants, including Japanica in Greenfield, where he worked as a sushi chef. In the years that followed, he ventured out on his own, opening Cheng Wong at 1631 Miller Park Way, a business he sold in 2016 in preparation for his foray into the world of poké.
Inspiration struck, he says, a number of ago when he visited his sister in New York and ate at the inaugural location of Pokéworks. Enamoured of the concept, he sought to learn the craft. So, he took on work in poké restaurants and smoothie bars in both New York and Madison, Wisconsin, before signing a lease on the Wauwatosa property in fall of 2017.
On the menu
On the menu, guests will find signature poké bowls including the Seafood Harvest with tuna, salmon, shrimp, avocado, mango, edamame, crispy onion, spicy mayo, eel sauce and sesame seeds; The Tri-Force with salmon, eel, kani salad, edamame, seaweed salad, ginger pickles, lettuce, sesame seeds, crispy noodles, masago, house sauce, eel sauce and sesame oil; or Chicken Gone Wild with chicken, scallions, sweet onion, lettuce and sweet teriyaki sauce.
The Vegan of the Sea includes organic tofu, mango, goji berries, edamame, sweet onions, lettuce, cucumbers, sesame seeds, red cabbage, carrots and sprouts.
Customers can also create their own poké bowls or sushi burritos with fillings like white rice, quinoa or mixed greens; proteins including tuna, yellowtail, salmon, shrimp, tofu, spicy kani, chicken and eel; a variety of fresh toppings from vegetables and seaweed to cilantro and kimchi; and sauces in flavors like traditional Hawaiian, spicy mayo, eel sauce, sweet teriyaki, ponzu, wasabi aioli and olive or sesame oil. All bowls will be priced $8.95-13.95.
Additional options include non-dairy smoothies made with juices and fresh (not frozen) fruit, a variety of fresh made-to-order juices, fruit and herbal teas and bubble milk tea in flavors like almond, coconut, coffee, honeydew, jasmine, mango, matcha, strawberry and taro. Beverages will range in price between $2.75 and $5.75.
Construction is nearly completed on the restaurant, which will offer counter service with seating for 20-25 guests inside, along with outdoor seating on the venue's sidewalk patio.
Once open, R&R Poke hours will be Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.