Words & Deeds

Hook up? Get Naked? New Boise restaurant opening Monday leaves ‘nothing to hide behind’

Steamed sesame seed bao buns provide the mouthwatering carrying case for Naked Fins’ crushable baos: From left, a Pork Bao ($1.75 for slow-braised pork, house-made kimchi, fresh jalapeño, bao sauce), Chicken Bao ($1.75 for green-chili-braised Red Bird chicken, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, house-made salsa) and Seared Ahi Bao ($2 for ahi tuna tataki, cucumber salad, fresh cilantro, Thai peanut sauce).
Steamed sesame seed bao buns provide the mouthwatering carrying case for Naked Fins’ crushable baos: From left, a Pork Bao ($1.75 for slow-braised pork, house-made kimchi, fresh jalapeño, bao sauce), Chicken Bao ($1.75 for green-chili-braised Red Bird chicken, pico de gallo, fresh cilantro, house-made salsa) and Seared Ahi Bao ($2 for ahi tuna tataki, cucumber salad, fresh cilantro, Thai peanut sauce). Photo courtesy Naked Fins

A sign on the wall at Boise’s newest fast-casual restaurant instructs diners to “hook up, get naked.”

But try not to fall in love too fast.

The menu at Naked Fins, which will open Oct. 15 at 1120 S. Broadway Ave., tempts customers to date around.

Why remain faithful to a delicious poke bowl when you can order mouthwatering street tacos? And why stick with tacos too long when you can gorge on sushi?

Selling raw, marinated fish in loaded bowls is a hot restaurant trend. But Naked Fins’ multifaceted approach separates it from the poke competition, co-owner Derek Hood says.

“The poke concept — it’s pretty one-dimensional,” he explains. “They have some other things that they might do, but you can’t go in and get made-from-scratch, chef-driven tacos. You can’t go in and get sushi rolls at that price point. Everything’s made right in front of you. You can have a choice of a bowl, a roll or a taco.

“We also have buffalo chicken soup, which is outstanding,” he adds. “It’s things that you’re not going to be able to find somewhere else.”

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The 208 Roll ($6.99) is salmon, ahi, surimi crab salad, cucumber, jalapeño, tobiko, mango-habanero sauce, sesame seeds and green onion. Photo courtesy Naked Fins

Naked Fins’ branding — “Everything looks better naked” — is intended to be fun. But it reflects the restaurant’s overall premise, too.

“Just raw fish,” Hood says. “We want everything to be clean and healthy. And when you’re naked, you have really nothing to hide behind. Everything’s in front of you.”

When it comes to ordering, think Chipotle. Or a typical poke restaurant, where customers get in line and start building. “You pick your protein, you pick your base, you pick your sauce,” Hood says. “We’re doing that with some different twists. We’ve got zucchini and squash noodles. We’ve got organic spring mix you can use. We’ve got white rice and brown rice. We’ve got a ramen bowl that you can use as your base.”

Bowls come in three sizes: Snack (one protein, $7.99), Regular (two proteins, $9.99) and Large (three proteins, $11.99). After that, select from a dozen proteins, 11 sauces and an array of add-ins (pick up to five) and toppings.

Not great at decision-making? Grab one of the take-out-only Signature Bowls. The Classic ($9.99) includes ahi, edamame, cucumber salad, jalapeno, green onion, seaweed salad, tobiko and sesame seeds with wasabi soy sauce.

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The Seafood Ceviche Bowl ($9.99), available for take-out only, includes octopus, shrimp, mango, pico, cilantro, pumpkin seeds, cucumber and verde-mint sauce. Photo courtesy Naked Fins

“Naked Fins is awesome for carry-out because it holds, whether it be a taco or a bowl,” Hood says.

A taco costs from $2.50 to $2.99. A bao — a steamed, warm bun filled with meat and extras — is $1.75 to $2.

Don’t forget to order a soda, smart water, green tea or beer. Or better yet, grab the super-fresh coconut water — served in the coconut.

“If you order a coconut water, we’re going to crack open the coconut and throw a straw in there for you,” Hood says.

“I hate coconut,” he admits, chuckling, “but I can drink that coconut water because it’s so pure!”

Naked Fins’ menu was nine months in the making. Wiley Earl, executive chef for Fins Concepts restaurants, now has three concepts to manage. The first Lucky Fins opened in 2011 at 1441 N. Eagle Road in Meridian. Smokin Fins debuted in 2015 in Littleton, Colorado. Lucky Fins offers seafood, sushi, burgers and sandwiches. Smokin Fins adds house-smoked options such as ribs, turkey and pork.

There are eight Fins Concepts restaurants in Idaho, Colorado and Arizona — nine when Naked Fins debuts. A new Smokin Fins is slated to open in Idaho Falls in November.

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Order a Gringo Taco ($2.50) in your choice of handmade flour or corn tortilla, and it will come with green-chili-braised Red Bird chicken or slow braised pork, pico and queso fresco. Photo courtesy NakedFins

Boise is the only place to get the Naked Fins fast-casual experience. Hood calls it a “test kitchen, so to speak. We’ll kind of take it and tweak it.”

Boise art collective Sector Seventeen painted murals on the interior of the restaurant, which seats 50 to 60 inside, and 35 on the outdoor patio. Garage doors roll up to join the spaces during warm weather.

Situated so close to Boise State University, Naked Fins seems dressed for success.

“We’re just excited,” Hood says. “It’s just something that we feel like we can take the next step.”

“The food quality,” he adds, “is just fantastic.”

Online: nakedfinspoke.com.

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