Interactive assembly-line restaurants—commonly known as fast-casual eateries—offer quick, healthful, affordable, and personalized meals in many guises. One the smartest concepts can be found at Poke Don in San Ramon. The restaurant offers a wide selection of raw seafood, which is tossed to order with a dizzying array of condiments (glance at the online menu before you go).
The poke bowls are built in stages. For the base, you can keep it light with spring mix, or make it more substantial with brown or white rice (the right choice if you love unagi). Your choice of crab, spicy tuna tartare, or other fish comes next (we liked the crab and were happy to pay a premium for real snow crab).
On our visits, all the fish we tried—from the dozen or so options—was fresh and of good quality, especially for the price (bowls range from $8.95 to $12.95, depending on how much seafood you’re after). Our best selection was hamachi (add 50 cents), and we loved the textures of the sweet, tasty ebi (shrimp) and tako (octopus). For garnishes, especially if you opt for lettuce, get the mango and cucumber. Finally, from that extensive selection of seasonings, we found a sprinkle of furikake brought all the flavors together.
One challenge is that, unlike the beans, pork, and chicken of Chipotle, many ingredients at Poke Don are unfamiliar. But for the most part, it doesn’t matter that much—even the spicy options don’t overpower the fish.
2491 San Ramon Valley Blvd., Ste. 2, San Ramon, (925) 718-5244, pokedon.net. Lunch and dinner daily.