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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.