When word got out that a deaf chef was operating a restaurant where sign language was understood, Dalong Houang, the owner of Dal’s Poke restaurant said people started making trips from as far away as Vancouver.
“More than half [our customers are deaf],” Houang estimated.
His sister Nana was acting as interpreter for the interview with Houang, who was born deaf.
Dal’s Poke, located at No. 2, 20477 Fraser Hwy., serves the trendy Hawaiian dish Poke.
Poke, the restaurant website explains, means “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian and refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish — usually tuna — which is then tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and umami-packed sauces.
Business, Houang said, has been good since the cafe opened in September.
He was “quite impressed by the progress” and stressed that he couldn’t have done it without the backing of his “super supportive” family.
Dal, as friends and family call him, was a sushi chef with eight years experience when his health-conscious stepmother and father visited Hawaii and were introduced to Poke by Hawaiian relatives.
With his experience working as a sushi chef and his parents love for the dish, they decided to go into business, he said.
“With no experience running a restaurant, my dad’s limited English, and my disability of deafness we came up with build-your-own-bowl,” Houang said.
“That way customers can just mark what they like and we just put the bowl together. We made our own unique sauces and our customers loved it.”
It is very much a family business, Houang said, owned and run by himself and his parents with the help of his sisters, Nana and Felicia.
He was careful to thank family friends Patrick and Christina Nakasenh for their part in launching the new business.
Dal said his family has many different ways of communicating with him.
“My sister Nana knows how to sign very well,” he said via email.
“As for my dad, he can sign, but not that great, as English seem to be one of the hardest languages for him to learn since he migrated to Canada in 1979. “
Other family members, who are trying to learn sign language, tend to use texting, messenger or email, he said.