That’s raw is called Poke, yum
At The Poke Guy
I still remember the dull clapping noise my flip flops made as I ambled across the road from the strip mall grocery store to the my spot on the beach at Shark’s Cove on the North Shore. I think I made this trip at least 3 times if not more during my last vacation in Oahu. Each time I would unpack all the poke bowls I brought and hand them out to my friends. Life was simple and good – eating a refreshing, tasty, and filling poke bowl, watching the waves while being warmed by the Hawaiian sun.
If you have read my blog from the beginning, you know I have been asking for proper Poke Bowls to come Vancouver for a long time! Oahu has a special place in my heart and I would love to have something in the city to refresh my fading memories of the tropical paradise.
Prepare for a Rant on Customization
This year people seemed to answer the call with several poke shops sprouting up in the downtown area. I thought this would make for a great Food Rumble but after visiting the 3 contenders once, I couldn’t bring myself to go for another round.
Customization in general is good but in the case of Poke it just creates needless long lines. All the choices presented at these eateries turn the indecisive into nervous wrecks and emboldens the anal-retentive.
At one place, I had the great misfortune to wait behind a person that wanted to micro manage everything the server placed in their order. “I want 12 edamame beans, just a bit of cilantro (umm less, less), 3 tomatoes and a squirt of sauce (well a bit more, more, no wait too much, um can you spoon that bit off?).”
The person nearly jumped out of their skin when the person assisting them added seaweed salad by mistake, and then backed up the line further when they realized they did want it (and pineapple too). My patience was tested and 35 minutes of my lunchtime was wasted away.
I can’t imagine how the staff feel dealing with this on consistent basis. Those who work at the Poke places have my deepest sympathies.
About Vancouver’s Poke
In the end, I realize this really wasn’t a Food Rumble since there was only one eatery serving Poke: The Poke Guy. RAW FISH IN POKE IS MARINATED!!!!
Some of the Poke places are selling a California styled poke I’ve had in LA, which I think is more like Korean Hwe Dup Bap than Hawaiian Poke. Tasty, and I do love Hwe Dup Bap, but it’s not what the surfers are eating in the North Shore and doesn’t match my memories of Hawaii.
Also I have no interest in the Poke burrito. Let’s be honest, they are just a customizable monster maki roll. Although I got to admit, it’s a nice piece of rebranding and marketing.
The Poke Guy still wins based on Taste
Even after my first go around at the various poke places, the Poke Guy had already won in my heart simply because their offerings had more flavour and Hawaiian touches.
By default of marinating their raw fish, as per tradition, the poke was just more impactful and was the star of the dish. Another reason I enjoyed The Poke Guy was the amount of fish given was actually significant. I found the other places were more than happy to overload you with toppings but the proportion of fish you got was really low in comparison to the other ingredients.
Over a few visits, I was able to try the wild Sockeye salmon, Ahi tuna, Albacore tuna and the Lomi Lomi. For me I don’t over load my poke bowl since I just want fish and rice. As a result, I just add cucumber and wakame for texture, furikake to season the rice, and potato salad.
Yeah, the potato salad is a sentimental choice since you can find it in any lunch plate special in Hawaii. It’s not something you find in a traditional poke bowl, but the spud salad is a quaint charming nod to the 50th state of the USA.
For all the options, the seafood is fresh and have some diced onions mixed in, another traditional touch, along with the marinade. The salmon was listed as soaked in a Hawaiian sauce. I found it a touch spicy and salty.
The Ahi Tuna was marinated in a Shoyu concoction, which was umami, salty and had a slight ginger taste as well.
My last order was a combination of the Albacore tuna and Lomi Lomi. The local tuna was infused with the same sauce as the Sockeye salmon.
The Lomi Lomi, is the lightest of the 4 options. The salmon mixture contains small cubes of white onions and tomatoes, and no sauce. This option is refreshing but can be bland especially if you don’t add any extra sauce available at the self serve counter.
Final Thoughts – I finally found a piece of Hawaii in Vancouver
After a long wait, I finally found a poke shop that evokes my cherished memories of Oahu in Vancouver. The Poke Guy is the place to go if you wanted to experience more traditional Poke without having to step on a plane.
The Poke Guy
420 Richard Street