This week, we’re celebrating Hawaii Island, the biggest of the island chain. Today, we’re heading to the westside, where it’s nothing but fresh fish! Da Poke Shack was once voted the best place to eat by Yelp reviewers.
“One phone call four years ago, changed everything here at Da Poke Shack. Owner Al Vasconcelles joins us now to talk about that phone call you got when you were out fishing on your boat. Al, tell me about it,” said Kristine Uyeno.
“Got a phone call from a reporter from the New York Times, I think, saying how does it feel to be number one in the country and I was busy fishing so I said, in Kona? And he said nope in the country, and obviously I told him I was busy working, so I hung up. He called me back a few times. I kept hanging up, it wasn’t until I got in from fishing and I came to work, there was a bunch of people here asking me a whole bunch of questions about poke, so that’s how it started,” Vasconcelles said.
“And it’s been busy ever since?” Uyeno asked
“It’s been crazy ever since, yeah,” he said.
“What do you think makes it so popular? I know you can’t reveal the ingredients, but what makes a good poke bowl?” Uyeno asked.
“Honestly, fresh fish. We’re fortunate to live in Kona where there’s a lot of fresh ahi running around so, I mean, literally the fish comes in and it’s just here for a day at the most maybe two and it’s gone, so besides the recipes, using the freshest fish you can get,” he said.
“So you’re out in the water every day?” Uyeno asked.
“Five to six days a week, and if I’m not on the boat, someone else is running my boat,” he said.
“And how did this business all get started?” Uyeno asked.
“Accident. I was making poke for friends and my friend wanted to open a shop and I told him if he wants to do it go ahead, and he found this place and we’ve been open ever since,” Vasconcelles said.
“And you’ve been open with this location, it’s been so popular, booming, a lot of long lines, people want to know, are you ever going to expand?” Uyeno asked.
“We’d like to, for the right person and only one thing, only fresh fish, nothing frozen at all. I’d love to expand someplace, it’s just we own everything here, we don’t have any investors so it’s kind of easy, where I don’t have to report to somebody else, but for the right person, sure,” he said.
“And it’s not just poke, you offer a lot more than that,” Uyeno said.
“Yeah, a lot more than poke, we tend to sell out almost every day, and that’s the goal. If there is leftover, we eat it, so next day, we toss everything, fresh again,” he said.
“Owner Al Vasconcelles, thank you for joining us, and right now, it’s a calm break, but something you don’t see very often here,” Uyeno said.