A poke restaurant is getting ready to open its doors on the Cambridge-Somerville line, bringing Hawaiian cuisine to the Porter Square neighborhood soon after Thanksgiving. Manoa Poke Shop just needs its final inspections and approvals in the books before it can dish out customizable poke bowls alongside a tropical wall mural.
The Manoa team consists of founders Josiah Bonsey and James Acer, along with chef Armando Leonardi, marketing guru Jem Wilner, and their kitchen staff. While they await the necessary inspections and secure licenses from the city of Somerville, scheduled for the coming week, the team is putting the finishing touches on the restaurant and the menu.
Manoa took over the former Mixtura space at 300 Beacon St., and after some renovations, the restaurant now boasts an open kitchen that showcases the poke-making process, along with a long counter where customers will order their meals. On the wall opposite the counter is a mural painted by Connie Fu, a friend of the founders.
Poke, a raw fish dish commonly served in shops and convenience stores in Hawaii, takes center stage at Manoa, which has tested its menu at two pop-up events within the last two weeks: One event at Naco Taco featured poke in taco form, while another at Lamplighter Brewing Co. showed off Manoa’s poke bowls.
“We’ve gotten a lot of outreach and engagement from the Hawaiian and Polynesian communities,” Acer said, which has fueled them forward.
Over the last few months, Bonsey said they've been champing at the bit to get their food out to the world, but they have had to balance that urgency with ensuring they check off every box and live up to their own high standards.
“We’re definitely at a good point,” he said.
The goal is to softly open as soon as the city grants Manoa its common victualler license and the restaurant passes its final inspections. In the meantime, Manoa’s sign will get installed this week, a few remaining items will be hung, and the chalkboard menus will get filled in. When Manoa opens, it will seat around 12, and customers will be able to get poke bowls for takeout. The team also hopes to incorporate catering soon after opening.
In the next week, the Manoa team will also finalize the menu, which will include some non-seafood options like Hawaiian fried chicken. Here’s a peek at two options that will be available when Manoa opens. The shoyu classic features yellowfin tuna with a shoyu sauce, sesame, sea salt, sweet onion, house-pickled vegetables, and macadamia nuts on top.
There is also a tofu option called the “soy boy,” which features marinated and roasted tofu with pickled edamame salad, sweet tomatoes, and red onions, with a calamansi dressing.