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Say aloha to Hello Poke’s raw seafood fare

bizo_jd_01aug_jessicadyerMario D’Elia has fed professional baseball players, body builders and even a beauty queen.

Now he can feed everyone else.

He recently expanded on his 1½-year-old meal prep service, Shut the Chef Up, with a grab-and-go outlet at the Jackson Wink MMA Academy in Downtown Albuquerque. The location allows D’Elia to serve the mixed martial artists training on the other side of the wall, but also anybody else looking for his brand of health-minded meals.

Shut the Chef Up business story

STCU To-Go features a menu of burrito bowls, wraps and salads like this Kale Power Salad.

The lineup his new spot – which he has branded STCU To-Go – includes $9 burrito bowls, $9 salads like the balsamic chicken/lemon quinoa, and a series of $10 wraps that include bacon cheeseburger, chicken Parmesan and Cuban versions.

D’Elia says he and his staff use antibiotic-free meats, favor coconut sugar over the regular variety and make most ingredients like almond butter, salad dressings, ketchup and barbecue sauces in house.

“It’s important to me that we do scratch cooking,” he says. “We’re being authentic.”

D’Elia began Shut the Chef Up after a four-year stint as the executive chef with the Albuquerque Isotopes, a period during which he cooked for the likes of suite owners, picnic-goers and the players themselves – including superstars like Josh Hamilton, who came to Duke City for an injury rehab stint.

He has in the past also worked with other Major Leaguers and college athletes.

His clients at Shut the Chef Up include some high-level athletes from a variety of sports, but he also works with many others who have special dietary concerns, whether that’s a pageant contestant or a cancer patient.

“You could come to me and say I have 84 allergies and, trust me, I’ve done it before,” says D’Elia who had a series of restaurants in Atlanta prior to moving to Albuquerque.

He says Shut the Chef Up currently produces about 2,000 dishes a week for meal prep clients out of its headquarters at 141 Osuna NW.

That’s the commercial kitchen where all STCU To-Go’s meals are made as well.

STCU To-Go operates out of a small suite within the Jackson Wink facility at 301 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. NE, near Broadway. It’s not a traditional restaurant, but customers could eat at a window-lined counter that looks into the MMA training facility.

It is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

Get your fish fix

Hello Poke is a new restaurant located at the Far North Shopping center. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Hello Poke is a new restaurant located at the Far North Shopping center. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Say hi to Hello Poké.

The new Northeast Albuquerque eatery specializes in poké – a raw fish salad with Hawaiian history and a growing presence in mainland America.

It’s a highly customizable dish, according to Hello Poké’s manager, Maron Mangan. Customers get to create their own version on a bed of rice (or mixed greens), picking from a lineup of proteins, sauces and toppings.

Hello Poké customers can customize their own fish bowl. Manager Maron Mangan is pictured making a bowl.

Hello Poké customers can customize their own fish bowl. Manager Maron Mangan is pictured making a bowl.

The restaurant opened about two weeks ago and Mangan says most customers are not entirely familiar with the food. While it bears similarities to sushi, “If it’s truly poké, it’s not ‘sushi in a bowl,'” he says of a term he doesn’t like to use. “It’s marinated (fish). It’s a whole different cuisine.”

Hello Poké’s “house” fish option is cubed yellowtail that has been marinated for 12-24 hours in a blend of sesame seeds, onions and a salted seaweed.

But customers have other raw fish options like salmon and tuna, plus cooked shrimp, poached scallops and tofu.

They can round out their bowl with edamame, avocado, other toppings and their choice of six sauces.

Bowls run $9 or $10 depending on the amount of protein included.

Mangan, who comes to Hello Poké from a job as a sous chef at Le Crepe Michel, says he may augment the menu in the future.

“I’ll be adding things, and playing with different ideas and seeing how they work,” he says.

Hello Poké is located in the Far North Shopping Center at 6300 San Mateo NE, at Academy. It is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays, noon-8 p.m. Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

In other news:

• Speaking of poké, Albuquerque’s Poki Poki Cevicheria is expanding. The University of New Mexico-area restaurant is adding a second location at 3517 Wyoming NE. It should open by early summer and owner Robert Punya says it will have the same assembly-line ordering model, but cater to a sit-down crowd with a beer menu and a sangria bar.

• Flying Star – which recently emerged from bankruptcy – has retooled its menu and says 60 percent of the items are now priced at $10 or less. The Albuquerque cafe chain that downsized to six locations since its 2015 Chapter 11 filing, says its new menu items include a warm harvest salad with quinoa, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and a French dip sandwich-French onion soup combo (each $9.95).

• Albuquerque’s own Dion’s has doubled its Denver-area presence. The pizzeria chain opened its new Commerce City, Colo., restaurant earlier this month – the chain’s 22nd location overall.

• Harbor Freight Tools recently opened its new Southwest Albuquerque store, the chain’s third in the city. The store is located at the West Central Plaza, 4410 Central SW. It is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.