Tuesday, December 13, 2016

First Bite: Poke/Poke

You know that the local food scene is getting crazier when more and more cuisines and dishes are being introduced to the market. Just a few months ago, I had my first ever poke bowl and I fell in love with the concept of rice topped with fresh raw fish. It’s like the Japanese chirashi but casually plated. As a hardcore sashimi lover, I instantly said yes when I got an invite to Poke/Poke’s preview event last Thursday.

Hello, Poke/Poke!
Okay, poke may not exactly be an entirely fresh concept here in Manila as there are already a handful of restaurants offering this Hawaiian treat. However, Poke/Poke is the first of its kind to offer Create Your Own Poke Bowls. For those who do not want to think of the ingredients to put in their bowls, fret not as Poke/Poke also has nine standard signature bowls to choose from.
Two groups were already sampling the different poke bowls when I arrived and I soon caught up with them when the friendly server handed me two samples at a time. 
I managed to try four samples—Basic (PHP280), Unaju (PHP450), Cali(PHP300) and Gangnam Style (PHP320). 
I first sampled Unaju which is basically a poke bowl topped with diced onions, bell peppers, leafy greens, roe and unagi bits. Though I love unagi, I prefer raw fish with my poke bowl. This bowl tends to be on the sweet side perfect for those who enjoy teriyaki meals with a bit of spicy aftertaste. It is also a nice bowl to enjoy if you do not eat sashimi. 
Next served was Basic which I really liked. This one is topped with fresh ahi tuna and salmon which makes it your usual and straightforward type of poke bowl
I also liked the generous serving of other greens for texture. 
Cali on the other hand is like your deconstructed California Maki as it has mango, avocado, salmon and kani bits. This bowl is perfect for those who want to play it safe and munch on something they are familiar with.  
However, if you want to be slightly adventurous, I would recommend Gangnam Style which is a pimped up version of Cali. This bowl has the toppings of Cali and is spiced to make it consistent to how Korean cuisine is known for. 
Fret not though if you have low spice tolerance as it is just mildly spiced. (But you could also request for additional spice if you prefer hot dishes.)
Aside from these four bowls, Poke/Poke also offers 5 other bowls with similar ingredients except for For The Rich Only (PHP480) which includes steak cubes. 

For my finale, I created my own poke bowl which was fun to do. 
As a clueless diner, I asked for help from one of the friendly staff behind the bar and I went with this combination: quinoa, salmon, tuna and steak, green and red bell peppers, onions, roe, soft boiled egg, sesame seeds, katsuobushi or bonito flakes and drizzled with shoyu sauce. 
Since my bowl was being prepared as I decide on the ingredients, I didn’t have to wait at all for my customised colorful poke bowl. Taste-wise, it was love! I liked that my bowl had generous serving of toppings and the fact that quinoa and white rice are priced the same! (Quinoa lovers rejoice!) Though the meat could have been a bit more tender, overall, it was still a delightful and filling bowl. 
After trying some of its signature bowls and making my own, I think it is best to just create your own bowl. Aside from the perk of being sure that all ingredients put in your meal are the things you love, it was also fun to choose from a relatively wide array of toppings. And you could also go crazy with the greens as you could put everything if desired! 
TRIVIA: Poke/Poke is the brainchild of Alta Lyttle who originally wanted to explore the idea of opening a Mongolian restaurant. However, she faced the challenge that Mongolian is no longer new and she wanted to offer something different. Her sister then suggested poke as an alternative as it is now the craze in the US. This was a lightbulb moment for Alta when she found out that poke is very similar to Mongolian only, it uses raw fish instead of your usual stir fried toppings. And that’s how Poke/Poke started. 
Poke/Poke is located at Lower Ground, Estancia Mall, Capitol Commons, Oranbo, Pasig City.

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