2016 was the year of poke mania, with all these places that are either open or slated to open this year:
- Ohana Poké (Richmond Night Market)
- Westcoast Poké
- Poké Time
- Pokeh Pokeh
- Poke Bar SFU
- Pacific Poke
- Poke King
- The Poke Guy
This list doesn’t include existing restaurants that already serve poke. Oka-San Japanese Kitchen on Fraser comes to mind. It’s no exaggeration to say that poke is the most hyped-up food product of 2016.
I love sushi and sashimi, and love buying fish and uni from places like Fresh Ideas Start Here and do my own pig-out sessions at home. So when all these poke places started opening up, I wasn’t in too much of a rush to try them out. Luckily, it appears that the only new poke place that is doing it right (by actually marinating their fish in sauce) is The Poke Guy at 420 Richards St. — love that address.
It’s beside Waves Coffee.
Cafeteria-style service. Line up on the left then slowly move towards the right.
I’ve actually never been to Hawaii! Although my parents have and Wicca has. One of these days…
In the meantime, I can EAT a piece of Hawaiian culture. Reviews online have said that the poke here really does taste like the poke you get in Hawaii. In particular, this great review by Moyenchow and various feedback I’ve seen on Instagram (all of which rightly point out that The Poke Guy properly marinates their fish):
Everyone tells me it gets super busy during peak lunch hours. Expect lineups around 12:00–1:00. Although on this particular Tuesday visit, it was steady but not crazy.
Basic seating, counter seating at the window on the right, and a slightly fancier Hawaiian-themed nook at the back.
Love the free lemon water 🙂
If you must drink Coke.
When they first opened in mid-September, they had their menu displayed on TVs (as seen in these Instagram posts here and here). Looks like they’ve simplified things by just using this chalkboard. You pick your poke, the size, and flavour (if applicable). The small “Lil Guy” size comes with one scoop of poke, the large “Big Guy” comes with two scoops. Their online menu is slightly out-of-date but gives you an idea of their “sides”, “crunch”, and “drizzles”. Their fish changes according to what’s available. They also have “Kalua Pork”, which is Hawiian-style pulled pork. Each poke comes with a “base” of either white rice, brown rice, or extra salad. I chose brown rice 🙂
Glad to see that all their fish is Oceanwise.
Everyone gets a bit of salad greens underneath their poke. Today they had the two flavours of salmon on the left, ahi tuna on the top right, and the two flavours of albacore tuna below it.
Their section of sides. The three leftmost containers don’t count. Partially accurate list of sides is available online. The sides (same as the fish) change seasonally.
Selection of “crunch” toppings and “drizzle” sauces. I didn’t hear what all the toppings were, but I think they’re pine nuts, chili pepper threads, macadamia nuts, two things that look like crispy onions, and pork rind sprinkles. The sauces (which include stuff like spicy mayo and ponzu) are self-serve.
Fresh Ahi Poke ($13.50 for Lil Guy size), Hawaiian shoyu with ogo (seaweed), with brown rice. For sides I got cucumber, cilantro, corn, seaweed salad, and wasabi masago (capelin roe coloured green). I also got their powdered pork rinds on top. This small size was plenty to fill me up for lunch. Admittedly, I have a small appetite for lunch. The large size that comes with two scoops of poke should be enough for anybody.
About price: it’s really a no-brainer that quality raw fish is expensive (and should be). It’s a shame that the scourge of cheap sushi in Vancouver has twisted people’s perception of how much fish should cost. If you compare what you get here with the quality sushi bowls at Kyzock a couple blocks away, you’ll find that the price/quality/value is about the same. Both places are offering quality product for a fair price. Yes, this is probably way cheaper in Hawaii, but Vancouver is not Hawaii. Do I even need to point that out? 😛
The sides were fresh-tasting and the seaweed salad was well-seasoned. I would totally get the wasabi masago again for the crunch. The ahi tuna was flavourful, dense, and looked like glistening pornographic cubes in the natural light. I liked the judicious use of onion in the poke — just a bit for that sulphuric bite. Minor point: I did not see any oro (seaweed) in the ahi tuna poke.
For my first ever poke experience, this was completely pleasurable and satisfying. Very fresh-tasting and exuded an overwhelming sense of “I am healthy and delicious!” I made mental comparisons with Freshii (“I am healthy and not delicious!”).
If you like poke, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this place. If you don’t like it, let me know why in the comments!