Pokiland. Besides being a fun word to say, it’s a new restaurant that brings something different to Fresno.
The restaurant opened next to Campagnia at Champlain Drive and Perrin Avenue the week before last.
Now if you’re thinking, “Poke what?” let me explain. Poke – pronounced by the owners as “poke-ee” – is a bit like sushi, except instead of sliced raw fish, it’s diced into cubes and flavored with sauces and seasonings.
Pokiland serves a customizable bowl of rice with the fish mixed with sauces – from garlic miso to the spicy “da bomb” sauce – and extras like crab or avocado and topped off with green onions, wasabi or other toppings.
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Poke has its roots in Hawaii, but poke places are very popular in southern California – and that’s where the cute little love story behind this restaurant comes in.
What is God trying to do here?
Binh Tran, Pokiland
Fresno area natives Binh Tran and Tram Tran, both 23, were going to school in southern California and got hooked on the dish. They’re not married, by the way – hopefully soon, Binh notes – they just happen to share the same Vietnamese last name. (He’s a 2010 Sunnyside High School grad; she graduated from Buchanan High in 2009.)
They met in church six and a half years ago. Their faith is a big part of their lives. Binh is telling me about his church when, coincidentally, his pastor from I.S.I. Ministries – Iron Sharpens Iron in Fresno – walks into the restaurant to get a bowl.
Over the years the couple has worked at all kinds of restaurants, including working at a sushi restaurant together. Binh graduated from film school. Tram returned home to be closer to family.
But through it all they kept talking about how much they loved poke.
Let’s just do it. People need this.
Binh Tran, Pokiland
They say that God works in mysterious ways and well, sometimes God tells you to open a poke restaurant in Fresno.
“One day we were just driving the car and we just thought Fresno needed something different,” Tram says. “Let’s open something.”
So they did. And their faith accompanied them right into the restaurant. Christian music plays from the speakers. A giant chalkboard is smothered in colorful scribbles, ranging from Guns N’ Roses lyrics to “#Jesus” and “You don’t have to believe in what we believe in but we want to let you know that you are LOVED!”
The restaurant made a splash when it opened and has been busy ever since. Even on a Monday, a long line formed at lunchtime, so give yourself plenty of time if you go.
There’s nothing like this style here.
Tram Tran, Pokiland
The most popular bowl is white rice with salmon or tuna, though you can also order a bowl with shrimp, scallops, yellowtail or smoked squid.
The bowls come in small, medium and large, which gets you two, three or five scoops of fish, respectively. It costs between $8 and $11.50.
And the “da bomb” sauce is the most popular sauce, though it is spicy so don’t be surprised if the servers asks “are you sure?” and offers you a sample.
And they’re really friendly here, so expect to hear a chorus of “Welcome to Pokiland” from multiple employees break out when you walk through the door.
Instead of a bowl you can also have the same ingredients as a “pokirrito,” – wrapped up in seaweed like a burrito – or as nachos. The restaurant also serves seaweed salad, edamame and miso soup.
Pokiland is at 1189 Champlain Dr. You can see more examples of its food on its Facebook page or its Instagram account.
It’s open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.