Why did one of Dallas' best fine-dining chefs agree to work at an order-at-the-counter shop?

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the opening date of Nov. 28, 2017.]

Chef Matt McCallister painstakingly sources his ingredients for his fine-dining restaurant in Dallas, FT33. He uses tweezers. He'll spend months working on a single sauce. So news of his involvement in a restaurant called Malibu Poke, where patrons will stand in line to order raw fish bowls at a counter, seemed strange.

It is: "It's completely different than anything I'm used to," McCallister says of the Dallas shop, which isn't yet open. McCallister will be the culinary director alongside founder Jon Alexis, of TJ's Seafood Market and Grill, and partners Ben and Eric Kusin.

Their hope for the Turtle Creek Village shop opening Nov. 28, 2017 is to serve "fishmonger's poke" — or fish they hope is superior to some of the sub-par offerings elsewhere. Fish will be flown in daily, and McCallister and Alexis plan to keep the menu simple: tuna, yellowtail, salmon and marinated tofu as protein options.

Simple isn't a word McCallister uses a lot, either. "It's a new challenge for me," he admits.

If you're looking for a primer on poke, check out this story called "How poke became the biggest Dallas food trend of the last 15 minutes." Shops in Dallas generally build poke bowls with a base of rice (or zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice or the like) topped with vegetables, fruit, light sauces and raw fish. But here comes McCallister:

"We need to be using a great rice," he says, adding that he's going to scour Texas for the best sushi rice. He's already got a farm growing petite greens and microgreens.

"And no [expletive] Kikkoman." (That's mass-produced soy sauce.)

McCallister knows he won't be able to create dishes that take a ton of time to prepare, which is so different from the work he has done in the past for fine-dining spots like the now-shuttered Stephan Pyles. "This can't be a 15-component plate. And we don't need tweezers." Save those for McCallister's current restaurant FT33, where he will remain the chef/owner at what critic Leslie Brenner called "one of Dallas' very best restaurants."

Malibu Poke's menu isn't finished yet, but some of the more interesting menu additions expected include yellow curry, puffed rice and smoked bonito aioli.

"If you would have asked me five years ago if I'd ever be involved in something like this, I probably would have laughed at you," McCallister says. "But at the end of the day, I don't really need to satiate my ego. ... I don't need peers in my industry to think what I'm doing is insanely 'special and out-there,' because only 1 percent of the world even eats like that, anyway."

Malibu Poke is expected to open Nov. 28, 2017 at 3888 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas, in Turtle Creek Village.

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