Poke finds a place downtown: Pokémoto opens at new Northampton location

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do with the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main St. in Northampton. The Hawaiian bowl consists of wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions, shredded nori and crispy onions. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do with the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main St. in Northampton. The Hawaiian bowl consists of wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions, shredded nori and crispy onions. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do with the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. The Hawaiian bowl consists of wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions, shredded nori and crispy onions, as well as any desired extra adds. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Wild caught ahi tuna and salmon used for dishes at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do makes the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do makes the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokemoto restaurant on 18 Main St. in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do makes the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokemoto restaurant on 18 Main St. in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do makes the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main St. in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do with the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. The Hawaiian bowl consists of wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions, shredded nori and crispy onions. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Chef and co-owner Anderson Do with the Hawaiian signature bowl Friday afternoon at the new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. The Hawaiian bowl consists of wild caught ahi tuna, sweet onions and cilantro tossed in a spicy mayo and topped with green onions, shredded nori and crispy onions. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The new Pokémoto restaurant on 18 Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

For the Gazette
Published: 9/28/2022 5:17:21 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As a child, RJ Schmidt grew up amid a family business.

That experience taught him much, particularly the importance of balancing work with family, and he’s taken those to heart when it comes to being the co-partner at Pokémoto, a Hawaiian restaurant that recently opened in Northampton’s downtown.

Pokémoto was started by Thomas Nguyen in New Haven, Connecticut, in 2017, following an extended time in Hawaii where he was introduced to the Poke style, which also has influences from Japanese, Korean and Chinese cooking. Following its successful launch and the opening of other locations in different states, Nguyen spoke to Anderson Do about joining the business.

“So, between the two of them, they worked out the very basis of this,” said Schmidt of the business. “That became the very basis of what we see here.”

Do then reached out to Schmidt, his longtime friend. Working with Schmidt’s wife Lynn Ly, the foundation was laid for a new location at 18 Main St., which opened on Sept. 9. Do has worked in the culinary industry for years, at several Asian restaurants, fine dining establishments, and a yacht club. He said the customization of the different flavors is what helps set Pokémoto apart.

“You pick one or you can just mix all your sauces together,” he said.

Ly has a strong background in Northampton, having lived in the area for years and attending UMass Amherst. Schmidt said they have spent many evenings enjoying the nightlife in Northampton and knew that a Pokémoto would offer something new.

“We could do this just by ourselves anywhere else, but then the family support and having friends and social circles and professional circles can only help and bolster the business,” he said.

Schmidt said that a family business can be very demanding, and cited the method of “working for the business” at all hours. As a husband and father, he wanted to develop something different, and hired 17 people, so that if someone cannot make a shift due to a personal reason, they’re easily covered.

“Every day seven days a week, you can do nothing else,” he said of the older model. “Those days are over. So, there was one lesson that was to ensure that I found a business model that was conducive to me being able to spend time with my family.”

Since opening, Pokémoto has been a busy location. On a recent weekend day there were several customers in and out, many taking time to converse with the staff. Ly, also a co-owner, said there has been a lot of attention leading up to the opening, as the location that used to house Banh Mi Saigon had been vacant for some time. Pokémoto joins two other poke restaurants in Northampton, on Crafts Avenue downtown and another in Florence, both under the name UYA Poke Bowl & Sushi Burrito. Poke restaurants are also located in several other Hampshire County communities.

“People know that we’re here,” she said. “As soon as the sign’s up, it grabbed people’s attention.”

The food at Pokémoto offers endless options. There are certain specialty dishes, such as the Hawaiian Style Poké with wild-caught ahi tuna, sweet onions, cilantro tossed in spicy mayonnaise, or the sweet and spicy shrimp. But there is also the option to build a Poke Bowl, wrap, or salad. Customers can choose a fish, chicken, or tofu, then add in fruit and vegetables, and a range of sauces, such as wasabi aioli, sesame ginger, or creamy miso.

The interior is bright and inviting, with a light Hawaiian theme.

Ly said there has been nothing but positive response in the days following, particularly when it comes to the many options. The partners have plans to expand the offerings with whole-leaf teas, coffees, and none coming from a powder mix. They also hope to begin offering a menu called Hungry as Heo, the Vietnamese word for pig.

Schmidt said the ginger chicken is his favorite flavor. Prior to working at Pokémoto, he had never experienced the style, and took his family so that he could become familiar with the menu. When his kids tried it, they were speechless.

“Not one word and they just kept scooping away and eating,” he said with a laugh. “And I said to myself then, that’s it.”


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