SMU students open innovative poke restaurant in Dallas
By Julia Batlle
Fresh fish flown in daily, matcha-infused bamboo rice and a full service sake bar are just a few of the inventive options that will be available at Pōk The Raw Bar, the first raw fish poke bar in Dallas created by two SMU students.
Brandon Cohanim and Francois Reihani are students at the Cox School of Business and are realizing their entrepreneurial potential early on in their careers.
The two Beverly Hills natives are opening a poke bar at West Village in Uptown after having dreamed of this opportunity for years.
“We wanted to do poke because it was just starting to blow up in Los Angeles,” Cohanim said. “There is a new place everywhere you go so we knew we needed to act fast.”
Google Trends show that people searched for “poke bowl” on Google 355 percent more this summer compared to last year.
So Brandon and Francois began working immediately.
“We’re both pretty entrepreneurial,” Cohanim said. “We’ve barely worked in restaurants, but we both are out of the box thinkers and we catch the little things that a lot of people don’t.”
This is the drive that has helped them overcome the challenges they faced throughout the process of opening a new restaurant in a big city.
Young entrepreneurs are the backbone of innovation and improvements in a city like Dallas, but the cutoff between young and too young was something that brought Cohanim and Reihani great difficulty during the process of opening Pōk. The owners of West Village were reluctant to consider their idea over those of older, more experienced entrepreneurs.
Research shows that companies are more likely to survive if the entrepreneur is older, Business Pundit, an online business advice site, claims. Cohanim and Reihani have been working against the odds to launch their company with great success.
The process began with a lot of research.
“It was kind of difficult at the beginning because we’re two twenty-year-old kids trying to figure out how we’re somehow going to open a restaurant,” Cohanim said.
The most challenging part of their process was finding a location.
“They want people who are established and have experience,” Cohanim said. “Why would they give two 20-year-old kids a prime location?”
They spent the next few months trying to prove their worthiness to the owners of West Village.
“We put together an eighteen-page business plan and got an architect to make a rendering to show what the place would look like, but the biggest seller was that we secured our Nobu chef to join our team,” Reihani said.
Chef Jimmy Park’s childhood dream was to work at the world-renowned Japanese restaurant as a sushi chef, so getting him to leave Nobu and join them was no easy task.
Park was not as confident in the project from the beginning.
“After meeting with him five or six times and convincing him of our restaurant’s success, despite our age, we got him on board,” Reihani said.
The restaurant will feature a 6 seat raw bar where Park will work. The appeal of the bar is the exclusivity of dining with a high-end sushi chef and trying unique dishes made from local ingredients.
Cohanim and Reihani also want to promote change with their brand.
“We came up with this phrase ‘Imagine x Inspire’ because we want people to imagine a better world and inspire change,” Cohanim said.
They want to inspire others to take risks and do something different, just like the risk they took in opening a new restaurant as students.
Cohanim and Reihani have been working to share the news of their restaurant and its vision.
Chase Piper, a fellow SMU student and a longtime lover of poke was overjoyed to hear about the unique cuisine.
“I have always loved poke and I’m so excited about the new restaurant, especially the cool flavor combinations that Chef Jimmy has come up with,” Piper said.
Piper was confident that it would not affect the young entrepreneurs.
“I have honestly never seen anyone as determined to do something as Brandon and Francois are to make Pōk a success,” Piper said. “I honestly think Pōk is just the beginning for them.”
Pōk The Raw Bar is anticipated to open in January 2017.