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money he'd make at his wild- ly popular new fast-casual concept The Poke Lab. "Ten years ago I wouldn't have seen myself running a restaurant," says Nguyen, who partnered in a similar concept in San Jose, then flew solo in his hometown of Monterey. "Things got kinda crazy." Poke simply means "chunk" in Hawaiian, and the idea is to combine chopped raw seafood with rice, fresh vegetables and bright, spicy sauces. It's a take on the Chipotle assembly line where diners pick and choose among ingredients. Nguyen hired chef James Anderson (La Bicyclette, Affina) to run the kitchen, and make sure fresh- ness is rule number 1. "We are visual eaters, and want to see the product in front of us," Nguyen says. "If it's behind the wall, it would be more efficient, but we wanted to let people choose." The Poke Lab is located at 475 Alvarado St. in Monterey. 831/200-3474 or MONTEREY WINE BAR REFLECTS SOUTH AMERICAN FUSION Pablo Antinao is a modern Renaissance man, and it shows in his contemporary social spot in Old Monterey. Bakai Wine and Tapas showcases Antinao's wine knowledge (he's a sommelier and runs his own wine school), his South American roots (the Chilean-born chef devised the exotic menu) and his eye for design (the chic decor features his personal touch). Antinao serves as owner, sommelier and food director. The menu features a fusion of fla- vors and traditions from South America, Spain and California. "This is my life journey, my memories as a child of cooking at home, and all my travels as an adult," he says. Bakai Wine Bar is located at 420 Tyler St. in Mon- terey. 831/233-2286 or LAST BITES Home baker extraordinaire Susan Carter has turned a hobby into a full-fledged business by opening The Perfect Crumb Bakery at 301 Lighthouse Ave. in New Monterey. Funded initially by small business incubator Score, the former daycare provider who baked treats for the kids has accomplished all her sweet dreams…The long-awaited River Road Grill in rural Salinas is now serving lunch and dinner Wednesday-Monday, giving pilgrims along the River Road Wine Trail a place to fuel up before imbibing…The nomadic Bill Lee has returned to The Barnyard in Carmel to open his steak and seafood joint Billy Quon's Sur. Expect Lee's usual flair and a bevy of surprises…Porter's in the Forest at Poppy Hills Golf Course inside Pebble Beach has launched dinner service, and for a limited time, will pay for your Uber ride to get you safely into the forest and back home. 162 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 6 Pablo Antinao opened Bakai Wine and Tapas in Monterey with food and traditions inspired by California, South America and Spain. Photo: Kelli Uldall

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