Elmer Guzman

Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - January 14, 2009
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It’s a store, it’s a restaurant, it’s Poke Stop - now open at two locations. Call it what you want, but whatever you do, don’t call it ordinary. Chef and owner Elmer Guzman, renowned for his culinary creations, threw all his expertise and artistic flair into the eatery.

Just last month, Chef Guzman, who was featured on MidWeek’s cover in February 2004 when he was head chef at Sam Choy’s, opened a second restaurant in Mililani Mauka.

“Business has been great,” says Guzman. “They (Mililani) needed a seafood area. We had a nice handful of Mililani people who would tell us that if we came here they would support us. We did come here, and we’re very happy that it didn’t affect our Waipahu location.”

For those who haven’t yet sampled the unique menu, here’s a taste: tempura fried spicy poke roll, boneless kalbi beef, deconstructed sushi bowl, eggplant fries with remoulade and New Orleans-style “po boy” sandwiches.

“Besides carrying the traditional types of poke, we do a lot of non-traditional stuff,” adds Guzman, a Baldwin High and KCC graduate. “It’s things that you don’t see out there. Creamy ahi is our No. 1 seller, and we have furikake salmon and our kapakahi is popular - it’s a mix with Big Island opihi.”

In addition to the regular menu, the restaurants also offer daily specials and a catering menu. And with the added space in the new Mililani location, Guzman says he hopes to expand on the catering business. Before opening Poke Stop two years ago, Guzman worked as executive chef at Sam Choy’s fine-dining restaurant in Kapahulu, where he spent nearly seven years. Previously he worked in New Orleans for Emeril Legasse and for Alan Wong. The move to open his own restaurant was a dream come true for Guzman, and he says it was all planned out strategically, down to the sauces and the menu. And because so much thought went into it, after opening, there was no tweaking necessary.

Both Poke Stop locations feature the same menu and follow what Guzman describes as his theories. For one, all the poke is mixed in two-pound batches. “The more often we make the poke is better for the customers.” Second theory: all fresh, no frozen. And lastly: prices don’t fluctuate. “I don’t like to go to a place and purchase seafood on market price and demand,” says Guzman. “My thing is to keep the price all year ‘round. Eventually it’s going to even out. So our prices don’t change.”

For more on Guzman, Poke Stop and catering options, visit http://www.elmerguzman.com.

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