It was 2015 when poke, the raw fish dish ubiquitous in Hawaii, exploded into mainland U.S. At the forefront of this craze was Sweetfin, a Los Angeles-born “fine-casual” restaurant that swiftly swept Southern California with its extensive, chef-driven menu and build-your-own-bowl concept.
Though the trend seems to have ebbed six years later, Sweetfin is thriving with new sights for expansion set on Long Beach. Mid-May will be the grand opening of Sweetfin’s 12th location and its first foray into the cloud kitchen concept.
“We’ve been looking at Long Beach for some time to be honest” said co-owner Alan Nathan. “We feel [Long Beach] is a very outdoorsy, healthy lifestyle-driven city, coastal as well. We love everything about Long Beach and we feel that Sweetfin will resonate down there.”
Both Sweetfin, and the restaurant’s vegan/vegetarian iteration, Plant Shop, will be operating under a takeout and delivery-only model—with orders processed solely online—from the industrial kitchen warehouse at 1388 Daisy Ave., which is home to some 20 other cloud kitchen restaurants in Long Beach and Greater Los Angeles.
“So much of our business these days, especially through COVID, is going through digital [means], it just didn’t make sense to have a traditional brick-and-mortar to start,” said co-owner Seth Cohen, but noted that Sweetfin intends to open a dine-in location in Long Beach in the future.
Though inspired by Hawaiian traditions of poke, Sweetfin’s menu incorporates Asian and Californian twists in their menu, from signature sauces to toppings, as developed by executive chef Dakota Weiss, a “Top Chef” alum and former executive chef at the W Hotel in Westwood.
Signature bowl, the Japanese-inspired Yuzu Salmon, for instance, is a tart take on a salmon poke with yuzu kosho sauce topped with avocado, cucumber, jicama, and cilantro. Though not an American sauce by origin, the U.S. obsession with Sriracha is celebrated with tuna by way of a Sriracha ponzu and topped with avocado, asparagus, cilantro, sundried tomatoes and onions.
The Build-Your-Own-Bowl (BYOB) concept allows the diner to experiment and features five health-oriented bases (bamboo rice, kelp noodle slaw, citrus kale salad, black rice and the paleo friendly cauliflower rice), six signatures sauces, and protein options guests can top with over two dozen types of herbs, spices, fruits and veggies.
“If you look at what poke bowls used to look like before we opened, it’s apparent how far we’ve come along,” Weiss said via email. “Our hope is that we can continue to come up with innovative bowls and create delicious dishes that our customers love. Poke is such a great vessel for absolute creation and it’s a dish that has endless possibilities.”
Health-minded (their entire menu is also gluten-free) and sustainably oriented, Sweetfin’s proteins are largely sourced from suppliers that employ sustainable practices. The yellowfin and albacore tuna are wild caught, though the salmon and shrimp are farm raised. For the vegan and vegetarian eater, there is tofu and vegetable poke, which is made with sweet potato, avocado, carrots, cucumber and edamame.
But for the plant-based diet, Sweetfin’s Plant Shop kitchen offers more variety with specialty Asian-inspired salads bowls and noodle dishes, designed by Weiss.
Editor’s Note: Sweetfin’s opening date, which was originally reported as April 29, has been changed to mid-May.
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