Downtown Tucson could become sushi central next spring when two new restaurants join the 16-month-old Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen.
As early as February, Bin An, son of popular Tucson restaurateur Kwang C. An, could open his Asian fusion restaurant MiAn Sushi & Asian Bistro on the ground-floor of Tucson Electric Power’s nine-story downtown headquarters, 88 E. Broadway. That’s a couple blocks from Obon at 350 E. Congress St., which is next door to the Cadence student housing complex.
And anchoring the west end of Congress will be PokeZone Sushi, taking the 2,600-square-foot space at 54 W. Congress St. that was home to Rice House China Thai. That restaurant closed in April after the landlord locked the doors, according to a note posted on the door at the time.
PokeZone is the brainchild of two Tucson pharmacists, Mobeen Moslem and Kevin Tran, both alums of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.
Moslem said the idea was to bring something new, fresh and healthful to Tucson, so they latched onto Hawaii’s popular poke — which means cubed — that has been around for centuries but has only recently caught on nationwide.
“As pharmacists, we wanted to do something fresh and flavor-packed,” said Moslem, son of Tucson restaurateur Mobeen Moslem Sr. The elder Moslem has owned and operated the east-side Verona Italian Restaurant for 18 years.
PokeZone will serve customized sushi bowls; diners will build the bowls from the rice, noodles or salad up, topping them with vegetables and a choice of four raw fish from salmon to ahi and beyond, Moslem said. The bowls can be drizzled with sauces and topped with flecks of seaweed. Think of it as a deconstructed sushi roll.
Moslem said the price will depend on the amount of fish, starting at $7.95 for a two-scoop portion. The fish is served cubed instead of sliced as most sushi restaurants serve it.
Moslem, who grew up in his father’s restaurant, said he always dreamed of one day opening his own place, but he wanted to take a different road than his father.
“I wanted to do something a little bit different. I wanted to go Hawaiian-based,” he said, noting again that his focus is on more healthful dining options.
A trip two years ago to Hawaii inspired his direction toward poke, he said.
Tran’s inspiration also came from California, where poke is popular throughout the state. The cuisine came to Phoenix a couple years ago, including through California-based chains opening Arizona outposts.
Oban, whose menu is geared toward ramen and sushi, has one poke bowl on its menu.
Moslem said construction is underway to update the space and include a bar. When it’s finished, PokeZone will seat up to 90 diners. Moslem said they hope to open by March 1.