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Tuesday November 13, 2018
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Shawn Reinhart, Li An Yu, and Brian Kung

Wild Poke

Ohioans plus Asian fusion

by Sabine Bickford

From the October, 2018 issue

The Foundry Lofts moved in its first residents in 2016, but it took another two years for the retail space in the luxury student high-rise to come to life. Wild Poke opened in August as Ann Arbor's latest entry in the trendy "poke and sushi burrito" category.

"When we began planning, there were no other poke places in town," says manager Brian Kung. That was in 2016, before Poke Fish and Momo Sushi moved in on the east and west sides of town. Fred's and the new Poçai now offer poke options as well. "Going through the approval process for our design took almost a year," Kung explains. "And then the construction process was only supposed to take about three to four months, but then it ended up stretching."

Kung has a minority stake in the business, but the primary owners are Shawn Reinhart and founder Li An Yu. The "concept is actually Li's idea," Kung says.

Yu, a sushi chef, has opened a variety of Asian restaurants in Ohio, and he and Reinhart are old friends. They met Kung as they were looking for a location for another venture; he's an Ann Arbor native whose parents owned Champion House on Liberty.

Wild Poke puts its own spin on the usual poke standards. Its burrito wraps, for instance, use flour tortillas instead of the traditional seaweed and paper wrapping. Thai "bubble tea" and smoothies are available both with traditional chewy tapioca pearls and "bursting" pearls that unleash an additional flavor. The "Wild Nachos" are made with fried wonton chips topped with spicy tuna or Korean beef bulgogi.

The heart of the menu, though, is the "Poke Your Way" bowl. Customers choose a base (options include rice, noodles, and greens), protein (typically raw fish with traditional Hawaiian poke or the Japanese fusion varieties, but cooked bulgogi is an option here), toppings, and sauce as they work their way down the counter.

A liquor license is in the works, but for now, the ultramodern bar area stands empty. "It's out of our hands," shrugs Kung. He plans a grand opening once the license arrives.

Wild Poke, 413 E. Huron (Foundry Lofts). (734) 780-7171. Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.     (end of article)


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