Poke, the raw fish "salad" of Hawaiian fame, has been one of 2017's top trends, and there's a promising newcomer coming to the Park Cities. Called Mola Mola Poke, it'll open at Inwood Village, next to The Juice Bar, sometime in late fall.
Daniel Peng, one of the owners, says that Mola Mola has a few things going for it that will set it apart, and not just that groovy name.
"I'd call it 'chef-inspired poke,' in that it took us over a year of R&D to perfect our sauces and recipe," Peng says.
Their chef is Peter Ngo, who has been a sous chef at various top restaurants in Denver and Scottsdale, Arizona. He's leading what is an extra-attentive approach to ingredients. That includes efforts to use local produce, and an emphasis on sustainability regarding their fish sourcing.
"We focus on sourcing experimental healthy options from across the world, like Pacific octopus and spices from across South East Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean," Peng says.
He and his partners became inspired to open a restaurant to share their vision of what poke can be. Having tried noteworthy poke restaurants around the world, they wanted to duplicate that same high level of quality in Dallas.
They're big proponents of the philosophy that "less is more."
"If you've tried poke in Hawaii, you know they don't overwhelm the dish with too many toppings and crazy sauces," he says. "It's tempting to want to keep adding ingredients and multiple sauces, but we feel that the best poke uses a simple marinade with a thoughtful assembly of toppings. They put love in their food and we want to do the same."
They were grateful to find an opening in Inwood Village, an ideal neighborhood for their concept. "We love that the center attracts many healthy, active individuals; those are our customers," Peng says. "That center also has a loyal following. If you look at the restaurants, they all have their regulars — that's a good thing."
Decor will mix tasteful organic wood and island colors, with a few Hawaiian-themed elements for a touch of whimsy. Every element has been considered, including their name.
"'Mola Mola' is fun to say," Peng says. "It's the scientific name for a huge, odd-looking fish that roams the oceans in the Pacific around Hawaii, feeding on jellyfish and tiny fish," Peng says. "The creature has an ocean-faring style and laid-back personality that we identified with."