This fall an exciting new chef-driven, fast-casual eatery has come to Coral Gables’ evolving Giralda Avenue — PokéBao by chef/owner Daniel Bouza.
For the concept, which opened in January, Bouza — formerly of Nobu Lana’i and, most recently, with Makoto in Bal Harbour — will evoke the flavors, texture and techniques he has spent years honing in some of the “hottest” kitchens in the country.
As The City Beautiful undergoes the Gables Streetscape project, which will transform Giralda Avenue into a bustling pedestrian-only corridor, PokéBao adds another layer to the city’s fantastic food scene. Inspired by a tiny surf shack in Lana’i that served poké bowls to guests lining up around the block, Bouza had the idea to serve the cubed fish salad in a chef-driven, fast-casual environment.
An afternoon making gua bao at a friend’s house made him further realize that bao buns would be the perfect complement to poké. Before he knew it, the idea for PokéBao was born.
“Poké and gua bao are traditional items ripe for interpretation and innovation,” Bouza said. “As a chef with a long history of making both dishes, I knew they would make a perfect pair and that a fast-casual concept was ideal for this style of cooking.”
Using his expertise in both Hawaiian and Asian cuisines, Bouza is offering authentic and creative takes on both of the restaurant’s main attractions. Chef made daily signature poké bowls include DB’s Spicy Ahi Tuna Poké — furikake rice, yellow fin, masago, fuego mayo, green onion — and Shrimp Lana’i Poké — seaweed and cucumber sunomono salad, local prawn, papaya, sweet potato, sesame seed, spicy ginger, and passion fruit dressing.
Guests also have the option to build their own bowls by choosing from an appetizing base, protein, toppings, and sauce selections.
Chef Bouza’s signature buns will provide abundant variety with delicious offerings such as DB’s Sweet and Spicy Short Rib Bun — braised short rib, hoisin, pickled vegetables, and cilantro — and a Juicy Pork Belly Bun — roasted, braised and seared pork belly, ginger-soy sauce, pickled red onions, pickled cucumber, and red jalapeno.
The Miami born-and-raised chef also is adding some local spin to the menu, incorporating Cuban flavors with a Crispy Chicken Vaca Frita Bun, filled with braised then seared chicken thigh, pickled vegetables and feta-tofu sauce. In addition to the namesake plates, small bites also appear on PokéBao’s menu. Crispy Rice Tuna, Kona beer-battered Tempura Fries and Yellow Fin Tuna Tacos will serve as enticing appetizers.
“The PokéBao promise will be fine dining quality food in a relaxed and comfortable setting at great prices,” Bouza said. “Families, couples and business folks on the go will find fast and effective service and convenience without sacrificing quality and health.
“Everything will be made fresh in-house with no cutting corners. There’s a lot of history behind the dishes we’ll be serving and we want to honor those traditions.”
Located at 153 Giralda Ave., the walls of the space are adorned with art specifically designed for the restaurant by renowned local artist Anthony Hernandez, providing a hip ambiance. Imported Japanese beer, local brews, and Hawaii-based Kona Brewing Company selections are offered as well as wine and house-made, fruit-infused sake.
PokéBao is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. V Visit www.pokebaomiami.com.