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Category: Hawaiian

Honolulu Coffee, Happy Hour

Other restaurants have Happy Hour, “Honolulu Coffee” has “Pa’u Hana”. Starting on Friday October 4th, the “Honolulu Coffee” on Nelson will host live music with drink and food specials, every Friday from 3-7pm. It may be fall and it maybe cold, but here they are on island time; and the tropical vibes certainly does help to warm you up.

To celebrate the occasion they hosted a luau and I was the first one to arrive for all the festivities. To set the mood, there was live music. Pop songs done on the ukulele.

And “Leis de buds” was on location with handcrafted real rose and real orchid leis. Guests were invited to dawn one around their necks, learning that the proper way to do so is with equal parts of the lei and its florals dangling in front and at the back. This is so that others will be able to enjoy its aesthetics from either side.

And when the pre-made ones were all handed out, the floral specialist began making more on the spot, as a demonstration. Utilizing a specially imported lei needle to thread blossoms together by way of string. The result, wearable art, and a keepsake to take home and dry.

The event spilled out the entrance of the cafe. And right at the entry way was a baby pig roasting on a spit. It definitely attracted the desired attention. Slow cooking since first thing in the morning, it was now ready for carving up and serving.

Its pulled pork meat would be the feature of their kalua pork burgers, along side pineapple and a tomato salsa. The pork was terrific, you can taste the difference cooking it over hot coals made. As for the burger as a whole I would have liked the pineapple grilled, the salsa less watery, and a sweeter mayonnaise to pull it all together.

Inside, a table was set up with help yourself small bites. A collection of their bar menu snacks and cafe favourites for everyone to sample.

In the Teri burger, I got the tangy mayo that I was looking for above. It paired well with the crispy shredded slaw and all the onion and cilantro, piled over a thin beef burger patty.

For something to crunch on and pair with their Hawaiian brewed beers by the can, I recommend their smoked “mixed bar nuts” with a sticky glaze.

I fully enjoyed the “Edamame coconut hummus”. A whipped spread served with pita. It gives you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour profile to explore. Garlicky and coconut-y, I have had nothing else like it.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice small plate to share. Served with tooth picks, they are easy to pop into your mouth. A bite-sized round of meat with plenty of cilantro, and hints of passion fruit.

The bacon cheddar scones are from their cafe side, a perk of having a bar within a cafe, you get to pick and choose from either menu that shares the same seating area.

The matcha brownie cubes were decadent, moist bites of chocolate.

But my favourite of all their cafe snacks is their guava bread. I ate cube after cube, recommending others to do the same. A moist cake with the flavour of the pink tropical fruit.

At the build your own açai bowl bar, guests helped themselves to scoops of frozen açai; and topped with as much or as little fresh fruit and dried ingredients as you wanted. Slices of strawberry and banana, whole blueberries, coconut flakes, and house made granola. Tart and refreshing, this made for a healthy dessert alternative.

At their bar they were serving cans of “Maui Brewing Co.” beers in Pineapple mana wheat or Coconut hiwa porter.

And for something sweeter and frostier, you can enjoy their “Hauoli Colada”, similar to a pina colada with tropical fruit juices blended with ice and rum. It was an easy drinking cocktail, made more enjoyable when served in one of their brightly coloured, novelty tiki mugs or pineapple-shaped cup.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup to further their theme. And although you smelled more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

They also have two new hot beverages for their fall offerings. The first is a “horchata latte” with cold brew coffee, soy milk, and cinnamon. The second, a “baked maple pumpkin latte” with real pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, espresso, and milk; topped with grated nutmeg. They didn’t quite taste like what I expected. Not concentrated in horchata or pumpkin flavour, but a different interpretation altogether. I would have liked the horchata sweeter, and the pumpkin latte spicier. The latter was interesting with the addition of maple syrup. Maple, being a strong flavour that battled with the pumpkin as lead in the drink.

For more coffee, guests were invited to sample “Honolulu Coffee’s” newest roast, the “Peaberry”. This is one of the world’s rarest coffees, a lighter bodied brew with subtle sweetness and hints of mixed berry. One that you can take home as beans in a bag. It was recommend that we drink it as is, without milk or sugar. It was a delightful brew, and I can see why it has earned its accolades.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In short, “Honolulu Coffee” will continue to be a cafe I recommend. Not just a regular coffee house, but one that features tropical flavours and transports you to a place much warmer and much further away. And now with happy hour and their own beer garden, there is even more reason to visit them soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

 

Honolulu Coffee, beer garden

I don’t naturally gravitate towards coffee so it is nice to have a different reason to visit “Honolulu Coffee”. They have just opened a beer garden within their cafe, and I was here to get the full Hawaiian experience from them. Although fun fact, Vancouver is the only “Honolulu Coffee” franchise to host their own beer garden. There isn’t even one in Hawaii.

I cannot believe it took me this long to step into their space. It is so much fun. Their Hawaiian theme is evident in every part of their business. You feel transported as you step through the threshold with the change in light and the faint scent of coconut and macadamia nuts in the background. Bleach wood, rattan furniture, patterned cushions, and walls papered with palm trees to further the setting.

To take a little piece of this and them home, they even have a gift shop of sorts. Shelves with their branded coffee mug and tumblers, bold coloured tees and canvas tote bags, bags of their own coffee beans, and tins of their tea.

Like with any cafe they offer speciality coffees and hosts a showcase of baked goods and pastries. From dessert cakes to brownies. We would get a taste of both before the night’s end.

Their cafe feels separate from their beer garden, despite the latter only covering a little corner of their elongated space. But in my opinion, this is the best corner. All centred around a colourful mural of sand and water framed by palm trees, advertising their “Brewed with Aloha” beers. With a custom painted surf board to anchor it all. With this, all the right props, and all their tropically inspired beers, you are somewhere warm and tropical.

Their limited menu is listed on the back of their bar. Local beers on tap and Hawaiian beers by the can, and the perfect inspired snacks to enjoy them with.

We started with two cans of the Island brewed “Maui Brewing Co.” beers. Their cans feature Maori traditional prints on the outside and tropical fruit flavours on the inside. Both gave you the promised fruit essence with a nice easy drinking beer. Pineapple mana wheat and Coconut hiwa porter.

With it we enjoyed a serving of their mixed bar nuts, its smokey flavour complimentary to the beers.

My guest and I were fully impressed by the “Edamame coconut hummus”, and the creativity in the idea. It gave you the sensation and texture of hummus, but with a whole new flavour. It was churned smooth, and ideal with the pillowy soft pita bread it was served with. Garlicky and coconuty both at the same time, here is nothing else like it. Worth trying.

The “Lilikoi pineapple meatball” was a nice one to easily pop into your mouth, as a bar snack. A solid ball of meat with plenty of cilantro, coupled with hints of passion fruit; but tasted more like pineapple.

It was later explained that it is typical for Hawaiian cuisine to feature plenty of onion and cilantro. Like there was in our “Teri burger sliders”, along with a creamy mayo and crispy shredded slaw. All on a thin burger patty and plain bun. You eat it more for its condiments than the sweet buttery bun, gaining very little taste from the patty. It is also more sweet than salty, and I expected some teriyaki flavour in this (because of its name), and didn’t get it.

We finished our meal off with a cup of their “Hawaiian latte”, exclusive to them and one of a kind with their specialty beans. It uses coconut milk and macadamia nut syrup. Although you smell more of it, than you do taste it, this was still a great indulgence.

And I couldn’t pass up a slice of their guava bread. It is like banana bread, but sweeter and pink from the colour of the fruit. It was cut thick and offered you a beautiful chew. I would go out of my way for more. Another must try.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Seriously, glad I could check this one out. And now I am happy to be able to recommend it. Next time that I want a drink or a snack I will actively look for a “Honolulu cafe”. Great polite service, stand out food, and a one of a kind setting to enjoy both in. Don’t deny your cravings.

HONOLULU COFFEE
888 Nelson St g1, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H1
(778) 379-6607
honolulucoffee.com

Pacific Poke Robson

The poke food trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down in 2019, with one of Vancouver’s most popular chains opening two new locations in the last 2 months. And today I was invited down to the Robson Street location to check out their new presence on the corner of Robson and Denman. Many other restaurants have held this space with varying degrees of success.

A piece of prime real estate with a challenging interior space. The small footprint is best served as a fast food stop. Its awkward seating area, on the narrow upper floor is best served as a pop in. You eat in to fill and go back out on your way soon after. Ideal as a snack mid shopping excursion, or as a quick serving in between meals after work.

When it comes to ordering, you can customize your bowl to how you like it with your choice of base, seafood and vegetable, then toppings. For base you can go the traditional route with white sushi rice, or a healthier brown rice and quinoa, or perhaps go carb free with a mixed kale salad or plain tofu instead.

For proteins they have bay scallops, negitoro, sockeye salmon, spicy salmon, a crab and shrimp blend, ahi tuna, or spicy tuna to choose from.

For toppings they have ginger jicama, masago, avocado nori, spicy seaweed, freshly mashed wasabi peas, organic seaweed salad, red beets and basil, boy choy gomae, pickled red onion, and cucumber kimchi.

For sauces you have a choice of citrus mayo, spicy mayo, sesame mayo, wasabi mayo, red curry mayo, and a ludicrously hot hot sauce.

And to finish off your bowl you can add some crunch to your serving with crushed nuts, crushed noodles, or toasted sesame seeds. Or even all three.

But truthfully with all these options I tend to get overwhelmed. How and where do you start? They offer so many more choices and unique topping choices than at other poke places. Therefore, I much rather stick with one of their already curated and proven successful chef inspired bowls, as I did today.

We had their “main” bowl with sockeye salmon, spicy ahi, crab, shrimp, ginger jicama, avocado nori, organic seaweed salad, citrus mayo, sesame miso dressing, shoyu, yuzu and lime juice, all topped with herbs and sprouts. And all their seafood is Ocean Wise, giving you comfort in its quality. This bowl would be the one I would go for if I wasn’t blogging and just wanted something tasty. It has majority of their available proteins in generous amounts, lots of harmonious flavour and I love seaweed salad. My guest liked the creaminess to this, but wished that the avocado was left cut into pieces, instead of being whipped into a guacamole spread; this is where things became too dense. She enjoyed the freshness of the salmon the most, and appreciated how much she got of it. There was a good ratio between protein, topping, and her chosen brown rice.

For our second bowl, I liked the idea of them offering a seasonal poke so wanted to try that. This is an option that rotates with new and fresh ingredients often, a reason to have faithful customers return for something new to sink their teeth into. This season it was the “Bangkok Bowl” with coconut marinated ahi tuna and bay scallops with bok choy gomae and kimchi cucumbers, dressed in a red curry aioli. This would be my first time having scallops in a poke bowl. I liked how it and each element was seasoned with its own flavour, and together they created something new. Although, I do suggest picking through each ingredient, and crafting your desired spoonful. This way it keeps each mouthful different and all your bites interesting. Whereas, mixing it all together leaves you with a one toned bowl, that you grow bored of eating mid way. This serving was salty and spicy at the forefront, with so much punchy flavours to oppose one another. Luckily they have the perfect drinks to pair with your bowls, thus giving you a break in between bites.

I love anything with pandan so had to try their “Coconut panda” drink. Although I didn’t taste any of it, it was more the coconut milk and young coconut juice that flavoured this creamy beverage.

The “Yuzu lemonade” however was more true in its name. A strong citrus flavour with the familiar sour tang of lemonade. Once again, both a great palette cleanser to help cut into the bold flavours of their poke.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great option for poke, and with so many locations you can pick your closest, be it this new one on Robson. Fresh food with prices on par with what you expect to pay. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PACIFIC POKE
1795 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C9
604-336-9500
hepacificpoke.com

Poke Corner

I was looking for a quick and easy place to eat for lunch. Feeling the need to have a cleaner meal I walked into South Granville’s poke solution. Poke is fish and raw vegetables over rice, a Hawaiian staple and now this year’s IT food trend in Vancouver. Although the concept is pretty much the same from one restaurant to another, I would soon learn that not all poke is made equal.

As a little hole in the wall I wasn’t expecting much, but at least more than 7 small chunks of salmon. My bowl had barely any fish, hidden in a forest of greens and over a bed of rice. I was forced to ration my seven salmon chunks, so that I could afford a sliver per spoonful.

This is the “Vancouver bowl” with salmon, crab salad, green onion, sweet onion, cucumber, and sesame seeds. This is the snack size version, which is still quite a bit of food. But that really doesn’t matter given that there was hardly any flavour, despite all the ingredients and the menu describing it all being coated in their “Hawaiian original sauce”. The undressed crab could have done wonders with a dressing of mayo, and the greens a drizzle of sesame oil. But with only a little seafood represented, I was basically having soy sauced vegetables over rice.

The clerk admitted to mistakenly adding seaweed salad to my order, which I thanked her for. Because of it the bowl had more depth and without it, it would have been all the more unpleasant to finish. And I was also abruptly surprised by the chunks of onions hidden within the mixed greens. They were chopped, but still stuck together in a raw chunk. They would have been better served deep fried to give the bowl some needed crunch.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Not the best poke solution that Vancouver has to offer, and with so many alternatives, you really need to offer more to stand out. If $10 isn’t too much to pay for you, look forward to adding on extra ingredients and toppings at an extra cost; for something not only substantial, but tasty from first spoon to last. Needless to say, I was disappointed enough to not need a return visit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

POKE CORNER
1509 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 5K9
778-328-2815
pokecorner.ca
Poke Corner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pacific Poke

Today I was invited to a “Vancity Tastes” event, bringing attention to yet another poke restaurant in Vancouver. Although “Pacific Poke” is one of the newest at a mere 6 months old, and they have something all the others do not: lineage.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

Their head chef and sous chef have 30 years between them, in the fine dining restaurant industry. They themselves understand that poke places are now a dime a dozen, but they believe that what they are doing is approaching it with a slightly different perspective. They are adapting their fine dining techniques and using it to source out the best ingredients, to elevate something as simple as raw vegetable and fish over rice. They set their standards high and put detail into their bowls. The prices vary between $13-14, with the option to customize your own.

The restaurant is set up as a quick eat and go. Tables and white painted chairs on the right, with bar style seating looking out the windows up front. You begin your journey at their service counter on the left. With many more customers taking out than dining in.

They serve from cafeteria style metal containers organized like a conveyor belt operation, assembled before you behind their glass protected counter. Like similar fast food concepts you follow the employee along, watching them add ingredients onto your order; but here they use a healthy sized ice cream scoop to add dollops over your chosen base.

With options like brown rice, quinoa, and leafy greens they definitely have health in mind, and are in trend with many of the health conscious folk in Vancouver. I am not one of those, as I believe poke is best enjoyed with good old fashioned white sushi rice and plenty of mayo and sauces; both well offered in “Pacific Poke’s” bowls. As for the other ingredients, they fillet their fish in house and prepare everything from scratch: every seasoning and every squeeze bottle of sauce.

For those wanting to choose their own poke adventure, you work your way across the counter choosing its size, base, proteins, sauces, and toppings. You pay more to get more in any category.

You begin by choosing your size, a regular is $12 and the large is $14. The regular includes two proteins and three toppings, and the large gives you three proteins and four toppings. But for those who like things done their way, you can take the classics poke route with a choice between organic brown rice or traditional sushi rice. Or you can go the healthier route with a quinoa salad base or a kale salad base.

The list of proteins includes salmon, spicy salmon, spicy tuna, ahi tuna, a creamy crab and shrimp mix, and negitoro. They will also be adding in seasonal selections now and again.

For sauces they have just as much choice, and you can mix a few together. Sesame miso, a citrus dressing, pacific ponzu, a classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, a spicy sauce, and a super spicy sauce.

And lastly the topping list is double. Cucumber and jicama, tomato kimchi, pickled red onion, sprouts, spicy seaweed, beets and basil, jalapeño salads, organic seaweed salad, fresh wasabi peas, avocado nori, and tobiko. Here is where they stand out from their competition some more. Not just shredded and julienned raw vegetables, but a specialty mix of seasoned vegetables and spices for house made salads, salsas, and slaws.

Despite all of the above, given the combined pedigree of their chefs, I wouldn’t bother attempting to make my own bowl. Again, they have over 30 years fine dining experience, so clearly know what they are doing when it comes to combing flavour profiles. I can attest to this, as I liked all their three chef inspired, fish-ful poke bowls. They also have a vegetarian one, but we didn’t bother trying it, considering traditional poke centres around good fresh fish.

Each bowl came well thought out. All three had a great ratio of fish to vegetable, and both over rice. An assembly of various textures and plenty of balancing favours. The fish was at the perfect, slightly chilled temperature. And there was plenty of cream to fully coat it all. It was hard, but I did single out a favourite between the three that we tried. (All of the chef’s specials, minus the vegetarian option.)

“The Main” was my favourite. Salmon, spicy tuna, crab and shrimp, jicama, cucumber, avocado nori, sesame miso sauce, lime and yuzu juice, green onion, and fresh herbs. A little spicy at some bites, warming with ginger in others, and tangy with pickled vegetables throughout. The seaweed was the highlight, best when partnered with a chunk of fish.

“The Keefer” had a half chewy rice and a half leafy vegetable base. This definitely made things feel lighter and more healthier. Ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado nori, fresh wasabi peas, mixed herbs, classic sesame shoyu, wasabi dressing, and lime juice. It was more tangy from the citrus juice, with the wasabi peas adding a unique flavour to the mix.

And for those who like more spice in their poke, “The Cali” is for you. Although I did find the spicy sauce a tad overwhelming as it hid all the other ingredients behind its sharp and tangy flavour. Spicy salmon, crab and shrimp, avocado nori, pickled red onion, sprouts, and the spicy sauce.

And for those who wanted their poke even more portable, they also offer their blend of vegetable mixes and seasoned proteins as a sandwich, grilled and pressed between two panini buns. A half order went for $5.80 and the full $9.80.

The “salmon” one included crab and shrimp, pickled red onion, avocado nori, spicy sauce, and tomato kimchi. It tasted like what was in their bowls, except, substitute rice for bread.

The “tuna” was pretty much the same, except for a change in protein and a sub for the spicy sauce with the more complementary wasabi dressing to tuna and sprouts instead of the kimchi.

And to match all these bold colours and flavours, they offer three in house made drinks. Each complimentary to the bowls before us. A refreshing yuzu lemon tea, a pleasant strawberry green tea, and the coco pandan that was so rich that it drank more like a dessert than a beverage with your meal.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They are certainly better than a handful of the pokes I have had in Vancouver, but without trying all of them, I cannot rank them the best. However this does currently does land in my top two. The experience of their chefs and their dedication to gourmet and healthy bowls certainly shows. Don’t deny your cravings

 

PACIFIC POKE
625 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V4
604-559-5304
Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Poke Shop

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When invited to media events, I like going in with a little background information, some knowledge on what I will be walking in to. It gives me the ability to ask questions and to probe at a higher level. Typically this is through a restaurant’s website or with reading their press release sent from a marketing personality. If done right, you get a good sense of what a restaurant is about, and an appreciation of what they are offering. However, today there was a large discrepancy between “Poke Shop’s” online and in store persona.

Walking in, I was disappointed that their website’s menu didn’t match up with their in-store listing, and neither to extent of what they actual served. This was especially the case for the variety in their ingredients and the lack of desserts. However, given that this was their soft opening, and that they had yet to work out all the kinks, this inconsistency made sense. They would be opened to the public the day after and had yet to iron out their operations and their offerings. Something that most businesses do within the first month of launching. None-the-less they were still very impressive today.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

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This story actually starts with local food blogger “DustBunny077” of “Constant Cravings”. She invited myself, “Foodgressing” and “Foodology” to this event today. This was a friends and family soft opening, with us four representing media with our food blogs. We were here to assess the latest “poke shop” (figuratively and literally) to pop up in the Vancouver food landscape. Where we four were here clicking away on our cameras, friends and family came to show support and provide feedback for the food they were enjoying.

Located in Gastown, kitty corner from the steam clock landmark, it is easy to get to by transit, and convenient to stop at when in the area. Although finding it may be tricky. They are the basement suite to an art gallery. If you aren’t looking, you may miss them and their iron barred windows at your feet. Especially with their small sidewalk sandwich board being eclipse by a larger representation. To enter, a walk down a few steps and a right turn is required.

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A lot of work has been put into the decor, in order to keep their cohesive Hawaiian-like theme. Their mascot is a little poke bowl with round anime eyes and a flower lei. Its likeness brands their sandwich board, and walls as back lit signs. It has also made its way on to each cardboard bowl’s lid and every drink cup’s label. They continue to bring the tropical to you with murals of foaming surf waves, gradient sunsets, and palm trees silhouettes. A similar wave pattern, but with more spirals graces the counter. Their washroom logo was even dressed for the occasion. A women stick figure in a grass skirt and a man with a surf board under his arm. It was a unisex one stall.

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It is also unintentionally balmy in the restaurant, a few found it too warm, but I found that it worked for their tropical vibe. Everything together with the bouncy pop and top 40 music playing, gave the restaurant a fun energy. This is definitely a place to come with friends and stay for longer then intended. That was the case with us. We had long finish our food, but remained to sip on our drinks.

For those who aren’t familiar with “poke”, their website explains it the best, “Poke is a Hawaiian specialty that first began with fishermen seasoning the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack”. The word “Poke” means “to cut into pieces”, and refers to the raw fish being chopped up into bite sized cubes. They are usually marinated in citrus and salt, with traditional seasonings heavily influenced by Japanese and other Asian flavours.

This Hawaiian specialty has since become the latest food trend in Vancouver. And it makes perfect sense, given how many Vancouverites value a healthy and green lifestyle, and this poke covers those who are gluten free and trying to go carb free. There are also vegetarian and vegan options to this dish, but they really defeat the purpose, given that the highlight is the raw and fresh fish in each.

The traditional way to eat this is in a bowl. “Poke bowls typically feature seasoned sushi-grade fish and seafood on top of rice, garnished with various ingredients…” And here you can customize your own with a bevy of bases, proteins, toppings, and signature sauces to choose your own adventure with. Their pricing is pretty simple. All poke bowls include two proteins and all the toppings you want. The only limitation is how much your bowl can hold and how much shame you possess. A large bowl is 26 oz and filled as full as the lid can shut. It goes for $12.95. The “super large” is a 40oz bowl at $3 more.

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We were given the opportunity to meet with the chef and brains behind the menu. We chatted him up and persuaded him to craft us a “photogenic” version of the “super large” bowl. He agreed and even bared with us when we took photos of him making it and then presenting it to us in cupped hands. He joked saying that it was necessary to also capture his face in our photos. This would be after we ate our fill, so I was the lucky one to be able to take it home. Although when it came time to eat it, I was sad to discover that it was prepared without any of their delicious sauces. This was in ordered to maintain its “photogenic” look, so in hindsight: worth it.

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Each bowl begins with either rice or greens as its base. Sushi rice, purple rice, mixed greens, spinach leaves, or “Zoodles”; which is zucchini spun to form the length and stringy nature of noodles. The latter was quite creative, and a favourite of our group for both its look and taste.

Next comes your choice of proteins. You have the ability to choose any two of the following: ahi tuna, albacore tuna, Atlantic salmon, wild sockeye salmon, baby scallop, barbecue eel, and oven roasted or grilled chicken breast. It was great of them to accommodate those who didn’t like seafood in the trend with, not one, but two chicken options. As well as some cooked fish for those who don’t like their meat raw.

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After choosing your two proteins comes the fun part: the toppings. With the ability to pick and choose as many and as much as you want, this gives “Poke Shop” an edge over other poke place who limit you to just two or three toppings. There are over 24 different ingredients in metal containers and 8 sauces in squeeze bottles, and it is all included in the price. All except for the organic avocado and free range egg that are considered “premium” ingredients and required an additional cost. And like the sandwich chain “Subway”, they make it your way, before your very eyes, on the other side of the sneeze proof glass. A few of the various toppings include flying fish roe, imitation crab, black and white sesame seeds, green onion, fried shallots, marinaded seaweed salad, pineapple chunks, mango pieces, Mandarin oranges segments, cucumber slices, corn kernels, radish slices, pomegranate seeds, pea shoots, lime wedges, red onion, and cilantro; to name a few.

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After customizing your perfect combination it is finished off with your choice of sauce or dressing. This too comes without any limitations. A few of them include their signature sauce, which is orange from the carrots they use; a more traditional tangy ponzu, spicy mayo, a miso dressing, and a pink poppy seed mix. Not that any sauce was needed to flavour the fish, all the seafood was well marinaded and plenty flavourful. The sauce was however helpful with the vegetable and was used to dress them like a salad.

Although if all this choice is too much for you, they do have pre-curated bowls that take the guess work out of things. As well as a legend that allows the highlighting of their staff’s picks for ease of choosing.

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Each bowl will vary in taste, depending on how you fill it. We tasted from one another’s and we all came to a consensus that each bowl was tasty, each protein was well seasoned, and each sauce is worth revisiting. The purple and white rice were both well steamed, they weren’t over cooked or dry as I have had with other rice bowls. The vegetables added some freshness, and the likes of dried seaweed and popping fish roe added some unique texture profiles. I liked the inclusion of fruit the most, it made things more exotic and gave more depth to the bowls, which is another feature unique to “Poke Shop”. I only wished I noticed the crispy fried onions, in order to get some crunch in there as well. But all jumbled up like this, the flavour reminded me of any specialty house roll, at any Vancouver sushi restaurant. The rolls that are over filled with too much in the middle and excess on top. But in this format as a deconstructed sushi roll it works. It ate like a salad, and had you finishing guilt free like one too.

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My bowl with with albacore tuna, wild sockeye salmon, baby scallop, white rice, zucchini noodles, radish, mango, pineapple, pomegranate, seaweed salad, Mandarin orange, imitation crab, fish roe, and avocado. All covered in their orange signature sauce and their pink poppy seed dressing.

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“Dust Bunny’s” bowl with ahi tuna, barbecue eel, purple rice, spinach leaves, cucumber, beans, corn, seaweed, mango, macaroni salad, imitation crab, avocado, and three different sauces in including a dark BBQ one.

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“Foodology” too piled hers high like mine. With spicy tuna, salmon, purple rice, mango, radish, pea shoots, shredded carrot and beets, avocado, and fried onions.

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“Foodgressing” was disappointed in herself for not being able to craft a more appetizing looking bowl. Hers had no rice but plenty of greens, tuna, salmon, cucumber, avocado, corn, crab, and a drowning of their signature sauce.

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And to accompany our main they offer various island inspired drinks. The “Roasted Macadamia Nut Infused Milk Tea” used actual Macadamia nuts blended and mixed in. Where “Foodology” liked the grainy texture of the chopped nuts and had it grow on her the more she drank, I would have preferred the nut as a syrup flavouring without the grind. This wasn’t my favourite, it had a strong milk tea finish to it, and wasn’t sweet enough for my tooth. The “Chocolate & Kona Coffee Milk Tea” was similar, but a lot sweet with the inclusion of a chocolate sauce at the bottom of the cup, and a chocolate cookie crumb on the top. It was like a grown up chocolate milk with a crunchy texture. I found that the “Plantation Iced Tea” made with pineapple chunks the best. It also perfectly paired with the food. It was refreshing like ice tea that was not too sweet or too overpowering, a nice twist on a flavour I already like. It also helped to cool when there was extra spice. They also had a triple berry soda that was a deep reddish purple colour, and an agave drink with cucumber and lemon slices bobbing with ice.

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As I mentioned, I was sad that the desserts promoted on their website didn’t make it in house. They were to have the “Dole Whip”, pineapple soft serve that other poke places offered. But what I was more interested in was the “Hawaiian Shaved Ice” and the Hawaiian Shortbread Cookies. I believe the cookies were the pineapple shaped ones from “The Honolulu Cookie Company”. They are so good, and unfortunately you can only get them when in Hawaii, or online if you pay a hefty price for shipping and handling. I would come back often just to purchase those cookies at a fair and convenient price.

As a group, we were impressed by the speed of their operation this evening. With five employees behind the counter stacking bowls and shaking drinks, they didn’t keep anyone waiting for too long. And this is with a non-stop rotation of friends and families coming in and going out. If this was how they did on dry run with a more than full house, I can only imagine the efficiency during regular business hours.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I haven’t had too many of the poke offerings that popped up in Vancouver this past year; but given the value here, I can safety deem them as the top on my poke pick list. Delicious fish and the variety to quell a greedy person like myself. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

POKE SHOP
306 Water Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1B2
604-724-8942
thepokeshop.ca
The Poke Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Poké Time

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A few notable Vancouver food bloggers and myself were heading to an “Eat! Vancouver event”. Fearing that we would be hungry, and that the event wouldn’t have much food stuffs to offer, we decided to graze before our destination. So we found ourselves at “Poke Time”. All my companions have been to other poke places before, but this would be my first. So with their experience, I was excited to see if poke measured up to the other poke places popping up around town. This is definitely the current food trend that has taken Vancouver by storm.

The restaurant is one of a few that sprung up during the end of summer poke (the food) craze and the “Pokemon Go” phoneme. Coinciding with similar names, our destination instantly became buzz worthy.

“Poke” is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. They come in a variety of flavours and a a bevy of ingredients. And this restaurant is known For taking the Hawaiian dish and offering it with their own twist. They have made the dish easier to eat and more mainstream by offering it to you in a variety of formats. Poke over rice, poke in salad, poke nachos, or poke wrapped and roll in rice and seaweed like a burrito. So you can either enjoy it as one of their specialty items above, or choose your own adventure from their list of raw seafood and fresh chopped vegetables, and make something all your own.

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Their list of proteins include albacore tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp, or scallop. For vegetables and fruit they offered Sweet Onion, Green Onion, Cilantro, Cucumber, Seaweed, Corn, Mandarin Oranges, carrots, pineapple, red cabbage, and avocado. And lastly, for toppings they had Roasted Sesame Dressing, Sriracha Aioli Sauce, Gochu Chili Drizzle, Hawaiian Original Sauce, wasabi aioli drizzle, and corn flakes and onion crisps. With this many combinations you could continue to visit and try new things for days on end.

I have had bad experiences with trying to customize something and not having it look or taste the way I had hoped, so have left today’s pre-meal up to the expert, making my selection from off the fixed menu.

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The dishes we all had were set, so when our bowls went down the assembly line, we watched ingredient after ingredient getting topped on. First the raw seafood, and then then vegetables. Our choices came before and after. The rice in either white or brown, or the opportunity to forgo rice all together and have a salad of dressed lettuce instead. And lastly we had our choices of dried topping. Four options to give our bowls and burrito some crunch. Cornflakes, fried onion, and coconut flakes.

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“Nosh” got the “Zen Bowl”. Made with Albacore Tuna, Salmon, Sweet Onion, Green Onion, Cilantro, Cucumber, Roasted Sesame Dressing, Crab Salad, Seaweed Salad, Corn, Mandarin Oranges, Sesame Seeds, and Nori. This was the full size and not even the most loaded of all the bowls. It was plenty tasty with all the above, but half of it was rice.

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“Gressing” got the “Super Crunch Burrito” made with Hawaiian Marinated Salmon and Tuna, cucumber, corn, mandarin oranges, crab salad, seaweed salad, red cabbage, avocado, corn flakes, onion crisp, nachos, sriracha and wasabi drizzle, and sesame seeds. After it was bundled up tight and wrapped in paper, she was then given the option to have it cut into two. She took their offer for ease of eating. Given how much went in, I was surprised at how well it held together. Although in terms of taste it was disappointing. There was not enough flavour. It needed more marinade, or a dipping sauce on the side. It was like a bland salad and rice, without dressing or sauce.

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“The diner” got the “Spicy Scallop” in a smaller size, for $2 less. His bowl came with Scallop, Green Onion, Jalapeno, Masago, Sriracha Aioli Sauce, Corn, Crab Salad, Pineapples, and Carrots; with Gochu Chili Drizzle. I liked the flavour of his the most. The scallop was dressed, and the serving as a whole came drizzled over with an additional sauce. It was spicy and tangy with lots of elements to keep each bite interesting. This was the perfect ratio of rice to vegetable and seafood. Though he went for the brown rice and found it dry, not surprising considering I found my serving of white rice similar in texture.

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After much debate between the nachos or the “Hawaiian Traditional”, I went with the latter, upon the clerk’s suggestion. Though would regret it, due to lack of flavour and a less exciting presentation. The others had their poke in bowls, mine came in a take out box. This was two scoops of Ahi Tuna in their Hawaiian Marinade, Seaweed Salad, Avocado, Sesame Seeds, and Nori. I went for all the toppings and wished I had more for its enjoyable crunch. For those unfamiliar with poke this makes a great beginner’s course. But having tasted the others, I found its one note flavour less exciting. This too could have benefited with a sauce on the side. What I did like was how the cold fish and the warm rice were a nice pair together.

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They made a nice pit stop, with their quick and easy, made to order, healthier snack and meal options. Their dining area was even set up with the need for speed and connivence in mind. A self serve station with water and plastic cups, disposable utensils and condiments. Seating was a lengthy counter with stools set against the wall. You perched up and hung your bags on the hooks below.

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But it was the wall by the front door that was the most memorable. A bench between two pineapple plants, with the fruit stamped on the wall behind it, like wall paper with yellow shell and green leaves stencilled. They also played very tropical music to match the theme. A breezy beat with a ukulele strum.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It was tasty, but maybe not my first choice for anything poke or even for lunch. It was certainly fresh and you felt healthier for having it. But I would have to try its other poke competitors before giving a full assessment. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

POKE TIME
1258 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1C2
778-379-7187
poketime.ca
Poké Time Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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