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Poki Poki serves delicious, fresh seafood dishes

Poki Poki Cevicheria on Wyoming opened recently, and the restaurant has the goods to survive and thrive in its new digs.

This is the second location; the original is next to the University of New Mexico in the Brick Light District.

Poki Poki Cevicheria recently opened its second location, at Wyoming and Comanche NE. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

A young couple and their cute toddler were seated next to me at a long communal table, also trying the restaurant for the first time.

“It’s like sushi,” the woman said. “Cheaper sushi.”

They ordered shrimp or fish bowls, almost overflowing with protein and decorated with intricate dressings on top. She commented on the richness of the flavor, too, and they debated whether they would come back again.

Poki’s setup is familiar: Diners order at a counter and customize their bowls with a “base” of rice, a protein (raw ahi and albacore sushi are the most popular options, but shrimp, ceviche, chicken and even vegetarian options are available), and they then find a seat.

On a recent visit, and overwhelmed by choices, I let the guy at the counter steer me. We decided on a traditional teriyaki-style chicken bowl, and at his suggestion, I opted for a delicious, rich poke sauce, little chunks of tomatoes and pineapple, green onions, and a perfectly prepared protein of soy sauce-marinated chicken breast.

The bowl was delicious and filling. With the options I selected, the price was about $12 – which seems to be about average for an individual diner – so it’s not expensive but not cheap.

Considering the serving and the uniqueness of flavor, it’s a great deal. Factor in the sushi-grade raw fish. and Poki Poki is actually a pretty affordable spot for your seafood fix.

And if it could overcome an obstacle or two, Poki Poki could become a neighborhood standard.

The place shares space with a few other businesses in one of the most perplexingly designed buildings in Albuquerque. The entrance is difficult to find. Next door is a new brewpub with a well-appointed interior, but it doesn’t serve food. A coffee shop around the corner also draws traffic, and parking is a nightmare.

Unless the remaining space is occupied by an office with no foot traffic, parking is going to get even worse and that will frustrate and eventually drive off regulars. Poki Poki needs to put up better signs to help guide people inside.

The exterior of the building looks like a dentist’s office, and the interior feels like it belongs next to the university. There’s a bar attached through a hallway, and another bar in the corner of the restaurant (both unmanned when I visited) and another level upstairs with more (presumably private) seating.

Communal seating on the ground floor was the only option, besides a few tables in the attached bar or outside on the small patio. This makes me think the place would make a decent quick-stop for food on the way home or during lunch, but not necessarily a place to relax and enjoy a meal.

Physical problems aside, Poki Poki serves delicious and fresh food and is definitely worth a visit. Whether the food is good enough to overcome the obstacles in its way remains to be seen, but with some minor adjustments, Poki Poki is likely to stick around.

2 stars

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