Poke, sushi and bubble tea attract customers to the new Hamden restaurant

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HAMDEN – A new Hamden restaurant offers sushi, poke bowls and bubble tea.

Located on Whitney Avenue near Memorial Town Hall, Yummy Poke Sushi Bubble Tea opened in late October, according to owner Jing Chen.

Chen has a lot of experience in the food industry. She lived in Hartford, where she worked for ten years at a restaurant owned by her family, she said.

Recently, she and a few friends opened their own Japanese and poke restaurant in Florida, but Chen decided she wanted to go it alone.

She knew how to make poke, she said, and her husband knew how to make sushi. They found a place in Hamden and decided to return to Connecticut to be closer to their family.

Business is picking up as more and more people find out about the new spot, Chen said. She hopes the restaurant will function well enough that she can bring her two 5-year-old sons to the United States from China. Chen said she moved to the United States in the early 2000s, but her sons are currently living abroad.

In the meantime, she is developing a small community around her restaurant.

According to Chen, some customers come by every day, while others come several times a week. Many work in nearby businesses, like Walgreen’s which she can see from the restaurant window. She enjoys making extra treats for the staff there when she can, she said.

Recently, Chen made a tray of cookies, sent a picture of them to one of her regulars, and wondered: did she have time to come and try some?

The fact that the restaurant has already won loyal customers was evident on Tuesday morning when Alyssa Ciccarini and her sister walked through the door.

They arrived at 11 a.m. sharp – when the restaurant first opened – and perused the wide selection of milk teas, Ciccarini listing the many flavors she had tried. Her favorite, she says, is strawberries.

Other choices include pineapple, coconut, and banana. Taro milk tea is the most popular, according to Chen.

Customers can choose from fruit flavored jellies to spice up the tea, or they can add boba, the tapioca pearls that give “bubble tea” its name.

Lunchtime specials offer customers multiple sushi rolls and a drink for under $ 13.

Ciccarini visits the restaurant about once a week, she said.

“It’s like our treat for ourselves,” she said.

Having previously worked at a poke restaurant, Ciccarini said, Yummy Poke Sushi Bubble Tea is comfortably familiar. She enjoys building her own poke bowl, a Hawaiian dish of raw fish over rice that often has other toppings.

Ciccarini’s must-have combination includes rice, avocado, spicy salmon and tuna, edamame, cilantro and mango.

“It’s really good,” she said.

As Chen worked behind the counter preparing Ciccarini’s order, the phone rang.

Although early in the day, the restaurant was starting to come alive.

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