Poke and Tea in Stockton with CaliPlate’s very own Drex Lee
by Alexander Quebec
On a warm summer day in the Bay, I drove down the 680, then the 580, on my way to Stockton, California. The destination? Superfish Poke and Tea, owned and operated by none other than CaliPlate.com’s owner Drex Lee. The hour and a half drive took me along the golden grass hills near Livermore, to the bucolic green fields of the Central Valley, where nearly all of the nations produce is grown. Still, it was a slow and tedious drive, but getting the opportunity to visit a restaurant owned by one of our very own was pretty exciting in my book.
I arrived at a very low-key shopping center, your typical suburban strip mall in a city that seems disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area. Stockton doesn’t feel like the Bay, and that seems very appropriate for this place, as housing prices have driven most of the long time residents of the Bay Area to Stockton in search of affordable housing and standards of living. Still, it amazes me that some people make the daily trek between here and the Bay Area everyday for work, even I couldn’t handle the 90 minute commute between Milpitas and Palo Alto , and that was only 19 miles away from where I live.
I’ve known my partner and friend to be what’s called a serial entrepreneur. From one venture to the next, he goes where he needs to go, establishing business, making connections, all sorts of stuff. He had always talked about opening a restaurant someday, and when he gave me the announcement, I wasn’t that shocked. What did shock me was the scale of this project. I knew he had talked about opening up a food related business, but what I didn’t know was how ambitious it all sounded. Drex has always been the kind of guy to think bigger than what’s around him, and while that does come into conflict with reality at times, it ensures that even getting halfway to the goal means that huge success will come through.
In any case, I walked into Superfish just as the lunch rush was getting underway, those of us lucky enough to have made it before then were enjoying the quiet solitude.
When I arrived, my partner in crime was sitting down with his partner in crime for Superfish. He greeted me immediately, then in typical Drex Lee fashion, we got to work immediately. I scanned the menu, getting an idea of what I was looking for.
I tried the Green Apple tea with the lightest sweetness possible. As it was a warm summer day (Stockton is almost always 5 to 10 degrees higher than the Bay Area temps), I found the drink sweet enough to be enjoyable, but also refreshing enough to slake any thirst on a hot summer day.
The Onigiri (or rice ball) was an interesting sight to see. For a town like Stockton, this might be considered a pretty exotic concept of rice surrounding a filling of meat. I found the rice to filling ratio was good, not too much rice as to just have a ball of carbs, but also not too much meat where the rice barely holds everything together.
The fish tacos were a taste of some restaurants back in the bay. Crunchy wonton shells with a decent amount of filling made this a great appetizer or light meal with a few of them at the ready.
Poke (pictured above) has become somewhat of a staple in the Bay Area, but here I was told it was mainly popular with the college kids going to the nearby university, or people like my aunt who live in Stockton and travel to and from Hawaii frequently. The poke was pretty spot on, fresh fish mixed with a made to order salad bowl (I’m going low carb after all) and seasoned exactly how I want it (for me, it’s usually a creamy sauce with some umami). The Poke bowl, while not terribly exciting for me, was a pretty solid experience.
While the focus of this article is on food, I would be remiss to not mention Superfish’s other highlight, the talent. For as long as I’ve known Drex, he’s featured tons of talent showcases throughout the venues he’s worked for in San Jose, and with Superfish, he gives locals the opportunity to showcase their talent to the community. Who knows, perhaps the next top 40 artist has performed or will perform at Superfish someday, but without that venue, that opportunity can’t exist.
Granted, to someone with a more cosmopolitan palette as a result of breeding in the Bay Area, Stockton might seem like a culinary wasteland. But to a lot of people, this is home, and when it’s your home, it’s your right to make it as comfortable and familiar to you as you like. It’s my honest belief that Superfish’s place in the city isn’t just another restaurant, but rather a meeting ground that brings about a change to its community.
Want to check out Superfish? See the map below for directions. They are open everyday from 11:30 AM to 9PM. Check out thier website for more info.
Full disclosure: Drex Lee is CEO and co-founder of Caliplate.com. Unless explicitly mentioned, all items consumed and reviewed were at my own expense and no compensation, thing of vaule or discount was offered in any form.