I recently checked out PO-KE on Centre street with my girl Carmela. There are now two places in the city where you can get poke, which is defined by Wikipedia as: a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as a main course. We were on a day off work so we went for an early lunch and a pedicure (girl time!). PO-KE has a parking lot in the back, shared with the other businesses in the small strip mall, just up the hill from the river. We were there about 11:30 – before the lunchtime rush. There are a few seats to eat inside the restaurant but we scored a table on the patio along Centre street on the nice warm day.
Neither of us had had poke before, so this was a new experience for us. There are four pre-built bowls available – we both went for the Traditional Bowl (I chose brown rice) and we both found it boring. The Traditional Bowl included: ahi tuna tossed in shoyu sauce and sea salt, topped off with seaweed salad, avocado, sesame seeds, green and sweet onion and nori. That being said, the regular portion ($14.95) was very filling, with a fair amount of tuna. On this day, we didn’t really understand the hype of poke. Even though we were obviously newbies, no one explained the options for us and no one pointed out the printed menu that helps you with your selection. We felt a little lost and didn’t actually know what questions to ask. The options available for veggies and toppings were well presented, clean and fresh.
We also went for a hot dog – yes, a hot dog at a poke joint… The PO-KE Special dog was amazing! Seriously – you should try it! The soft bun, the crunch of the all-beef hot dog, and all the toppings – sweet, salty, crunchy and creamy – OMG. The nori, onion crisps, seaweed salad, signature sauce, teriyaki sauce and spicy massage aioli made for an amazing taste sensation! For $5.95 you get a drink and a hot dog – totally worth a trip!
We also shared the 2 types of Musubi (spam on rice wrapped with nori) for $2.95 a piece. It would have been easier to share each piece if we didn’t have to cut them in half with a plastic fork (they don’t have plastic knives!). If you like Musubi, these were pretty tasty.
Both of us ended up going back another time on our own – we both had the PO-KE Special Bowl and thought it was super delicious! They toss the ahi tuna and salmon in their Po-ke signature sauce and top it off with seaweed salad, avocado, mandarins, masago, sesame seeds, shredded nori, drizzled with unagi sauce. I chose half white and half brown rice this time (trying to be healthy) and I got the large bowl this time because I was hungry. The large bowl comes with 3 scoops of protein – and these are heaping scoops! Unless you’re a big buy or a body builder I’d actually suggest you stick with the regular portion size – I can eat a lot, but this was too much raw fish. I was leery about the canned mandarin oranges in something so savoury but they added a little hint of sweetness that went so well with all the other flavours in the bowl. I actually wouldn’t suggest any changes to this bowl – it was so good!!
Having watched others place their orders on my second visit I better understand all the options now, and I will build my own bowl next time for just $12.95. With options for proteins such as plain or marinated tuna, salmon and scallops, and plenty of veggies, finishes and sauces, I think it will take a long time to try all the options available to you. I can’t wait to go back and try more!