Poke, the ever popular Hawaiian dish, is built around a simple concept of combining raw fish, rice and sauce. But the owners of Fresno’s newest poke restaurant are taking the idea a step further.
Butterfish California Poke, at 8464 N. Friant Road, embraces traditional poke while showcasing high-quality ingredients, house-made ingredients and creative combinations.
Even the design of the restaurant stands apart from most. Designer Julana Chambers Cribari of Fresno created an inviting space that is light and airy with tall ceilings, light wood accents and succulent plants.
Butterfish California Poke is owned by Kevin and Rema Koligian, along with restauranteur Brandon Smittcamp. The new restaurant features several signature items, including organic heirloom rice from the in South Dos Palos-based Koda Farms, one of the state’s premier rice makers.
Smittcamp, who also owns the Lime Lite restaurant in Fresno, says the short-to-medium grain, sushi-style rice is perfect for poke.
“We pride ourselves on taking an elevated approach to our food, it’s about quality and freshness, even our cooking approach is different,” Smittcamp says.
Butterfish cooks add seasoning to its Koda Farms rice while carefully mixing it to avoid smashing the grains of rice. The mixing also helps cool the rice to room temperature before it can be scooped for serving.
The restaurant also uses items that you may not find elsewhere, like kelp noodles, wonton chips, blistered shishito peppers and chili marinated mandarins.
“We want to give people some real interesting options for how they can build their bowl,” Smittcamp says. “It’s a delicious way to eat healthy that is highly customizable.”
And if you’ve never been to a poke restaurant, no worries, Smittcamp says the employees will walk you through the process.
For starters, you pick one item to be your base: sushi rice, brown rice, kelp noodles, wonton chips or a salad green mix. Then you select one of seven proteins: ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, lump crab, chicken or vegetables.
Rema Koligian says they chose to add chicken to the menu to make it more family friendly and appealing to non-fish eaters.
“One of the reasons we use California poke in our name is because we wanted to offer on own spin on it,” she says. “We love poke, but sometimes it good to have another option.”
After picking your base and protein, you select one of 11 sauces ranging from a mild sweet ginger sauce to a potent citrus thai chili. You also get to choose from 20 toppings, including charred habanero, crispy onions and tempura crumbles.
Butterfish also has eight signature bowls that are built around a specific protein and combined with various ingredients and sauce. Prices for the signature bowls vary from $7 to $13.
One of the more popular bowls is the Mainline that comes with ahi tuna, sushi rice, citrus ponzu, macadamia nuts, cucumber, crispy onions, Himalayan pink salt and sesame seeds.
Although the restaurant has only been open a few weeks, it is already generating regular customers. One of those is John Amendola, who frequents the restaurant at least four times a week.
“What I like about it is that it’s healthy, and made with quality ingredients,” Amendola says. “You can really taste the difference.”
Amendola also likes the Butterfish app that he uses to order his meal and pick it up. A small window at the front of the restaurant is designated for pick up customers only. There is also a parking space for app customers.
Koligian says the customer’s response to Butterfish has been so positive that they are working on opening a second location in Clovis. If everything falls into place, the new location will be open by late summer of 2017.