On this week's podcast of "What's Eric Eating," CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler takes a closer look at one of this year's hottest food trends by inviting three members of the SeaSide Poke team to discuss their restaurant in EaDo. Chief of operations Alex Boquiren, culinary director Tai Nguyen, and executive chef Vuthy "Tee" Srey have led SeaSide to a position as one of Houston's most prominent poke shops.
Most poke restaurants seem to offer similar menus, but SeaSide has stood out with its creative combinations and unusual ingredients. "Using my sushi skills . . . we want to take it to the next level," Srey says. "Do things that other poke places aren't going to do like take the time to fabricate these fruits or get creative and dehydrate things."
Poke restaurants are popping up all over the Houston area. The bowls are affordable, relatively healthy, and they look good on Instagram, but one factor seems to be driving the trend.
"I think the biggest part of this trend that has people's attention is that its build-your-own. You're pretty much able to dictate whatever you eat, and the coolest part is we build it right in front of you," Boquiren says. "That's definitely the biggest thing. It's not just a set menu . . . Not one bowl is the same."
The guys also share their plans for the future, the role that social media has played in their marketing, and how they'd like to grow the menu.
Prior to the SeaSide guys joining the show, L'Olivier owner Mary Clarkson joins Sandler to discuss the news of the week. The duo discuss their excitement about Oxbow 7, the new restaurant Reef chef-owner Bryan Caswell will open next week in the new Le Meridien hotel downtown, Tila's closing after 20 years, and the announcements about two new restaurants that will open in the Heights: Bosscat Kitchen & Cocktail Adventures and a Mexican-inspired bar from the owners of Edison & Patton.
In the restaurant of the week segment, Clarkson and Sandler discuss their first impressions of Aqui, the new Southeast Asian restaurant from Austin chef Paul Qui and chef de cuisine Gabriel Medina. While the food certainly impressed them, Clarkson notes the design impresses, too.
"The restaurant itself is one of the most beautiful I've been in Houston in a long time," Clarkson says. "Not because it's got rich mahogany steakhouse walls. It's a Scandinavian-looking, Japanese-looking minimalistic design that I love."