Biz Beat

Poké-ed or grilled at these two new Asian-inspired restaurants opening in Modesto

Why open just one restaurant in Modesto when you can open two, at the same time?

Valley entrepreneur and apparent glutton for punishment Tim Le, along with his business partner Truong Nguyen, are tackling the daunting and exciting task of launching two new Asian-inspired eateries. Both restaurants, Poke Mi! and Grill Mi!, should open at different spots along McHenry Avenue within about a month.

Now, Le didn’t originally plan to work on the places at once, but the north McHenry space in the Walmart shopping center that Grill Mi! is going into became available. The men had already started their company Poke Mi! Inc, and intended to open Poke Mi! in the McHenry Village. Le, who serves as CEO of the company, has a long history of working in and opening restaurants. His brother owns Raw Sushi Bistro in downtown Modesto, where Le served as manager for several years, and other franchises.

Le, who lives in Stockton, considers himself a “foodie, enthusiast and entrepreneur” instead of a chef, while he has worked in the restaurant industry much of his life. Meanwhile his partner Nguyen owns five NT Nails shops in the region.

Le said he has been working on the Poke Mi! concept for about a year. The seafood restaurant specializes in poke bowls, inspired by the popular Hawaiian dish “poké” made of diced raw fish. The restaurant, snuggled in between the Togo’s and Jenny Craig in McHenry Village, will offer full customization with different sides, toppings and other ingredients that can be added.

Poke Mi! owner Tim Le is preparing to open seafood restaurant at McHenry Village on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, Calif., Friday, April 5, 2019. Andy Alfaro

But fear not, raw fish-phobics, Poke Mi! will have plenty for you. Cooked fish and other kind of cooked seafood can also be ordered, along with chicken, steak and vegetarian/vegan options. Le said the bowls will start at $9.95. Available seafood will range from crab, scallops, octopus, jellyfish, unagi (eel), uni (sea urchin) and more. Also on the menu will be Asian-themed poke tacos with raw fish served in crispy taco-shaped wonton shells, as well as a raw oyster bar. And they will also serve mixed fruit and other specialty drinks called “refreshers.” Down the road, they plan to add beer and wine.

“We really want to promote healthy eating in Modesto with this food,” Le said. “All of our concepts are do it however you want, whenever you want and whatever way you want. So it’s all by your choices.”

Still, the restaurant will have less healthy and more fun toppings as well like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Pop Rocks (yes, you read that right, Pop Rocks on raw fish).

Future site of Grill Mi! on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, Calif., Friday, April 5, 2019. Andy Alfaro

Grill Mi! meanwhile will be an Asian-inspired kitchen going into the former Ohana Hawaiian BBQ in the McHenry Avenue Walmart shopping center. Le said they decided to pick up the space when the Ohana was put up for sale recently.

They hired one of the longtime chefs of Sushi Garden to be the Grill Mi! head chef and create a menu that will include skewers, rice bowls, salad bowls, wraps and other options. The restaurant will draw influences from around all of Asia including Japan, Korea, China and more.

“There is a core Asian menu that’s intended to be like a taste of Asia. We saw what was available (as far as Asian cuisines) here and filled in the blanks,” Le said.

Both Grill Mi! and Poke Mi! are around the same size with seating for around 30. Poke Mi! will also have an outside patio for dining. Poke Mi! is expected to open by the end of April and then Le said Grill Mi! should open about a week later.

For more information visit the Poke Mi! Facebook page at

Elsewhere on the Business Beat:

Remember the artisan butcher shop also coming to the McHenry Village?

Well now they’re hiring in preparation for a spring opening. The Village Butcher from Modesto native, owner and head butcher Matt Soderstrom will hold a job fair at the site April 19 and 20.

Full-time and part-time positions are available at the whole-animal butcher shop and deli. Available jobs include kitchen manager, prep and line cooks, butchers and cashiers. The job fair begins at 10 a.m. both days at the shop, 1700 McHenry Ave., #65. An application is available at and email for more information.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs multiple times a week. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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