As a food scientist and as a hobby, I like to follow what the latest "food trends." Dishes containing vegetable proteins, the ever popular sushi-climb, full use of an ingredient and not wasting any part, and fermented beverages (kombucha, kefir, craft beers, etc.) are some of the most popular trends going on worldwide. However, if we are to bring stead one dish that is spreading rapidly, it would be poke. This Hawaiian dish started spreading from its American locations in California. Poke starts with a rice or salad base, raw fish (or tofu) glazed in seasame oil and some vinegar to give it a sweet, but juicy pop. Then it is accompanied with all sorts of add-ins like edamame, macadamia nuts, furikake (dried fish slivers), or pineapple, among others. So if you haven't heard of poke or have been itching to try it, head to PokeLab.
PokeLab is located on Sixth Street, north of Green, and has just recently opened. The outside features a really clever sign and clear view inside the restaurant. There is a poster that contains all of the menu items for any that pass by. Once you walk in, the restaurant is set up and run very much like a typical fast-casusal restaurant. As Poke is about what you want created and made, you can choose any flavors and stylings you want. Thus, the bowl can be as cost-efficient or extra depending on your choices.
First up is the base of bowl ($3), which can either be just white or brown rice, a salad mix, or a combination of any of the three. Next you choose your protein. Poke focuses mainly on raw fish, so they have the classics of tuna ($3), salmon ($2.5), and spicy tuna ($2.5). However, you can also get crab ($1), scallops ($3), or tofu ($1), if raw fish isn't your scene. Then, you choose which sauce or sauces you want, and PokeLab touts a great selection to pair with your choice. Since the sauces are free, I highly recommend getting a half portion of two that cater to the masterpiece you are making. From Hawaiian sweet, to sweet chili to ponzu sauce, each sauce has a smooth, strong flavor to match with any combination. Finally, toppings and add-ins, which are free and all cost a quarter, respectively. Toppings include seasame seeds, furikake, seaweed sprinkles, and a few other available options. The add-ins are things like edamame, macadamia nuts, mango, pineapple, masago, avocado slices, cucumber, pickled radish, and many more options.
I choose a half rice, half salad base with tuna and salmon, mango, pickled radish, avocado, edamame, and masago, topped with furikake and seasame seeds. What can I say? I am a huge fan of my toppings and veggies. My meal came in just under $11 and came in a bowl that was super easy to use as a to-go container. As I dug in, I was able to grab multiple pieces of each part of the bowl. Some bites were sweet and tart with the mango, pickled radish, rice and salmon and some bites were crunchy, salty, and full of flavor with the tuna, edamame, masago, and avocado. While the bowl comes out so clean and neat, I have to say that I mixed everything up so that I could get the full experience of my bowl. Without a doubt, this was a filling, tasty trip to go on. I'd like to see options for a dine-in bowl, a chicken or poultry protein option, and easing up on the sauces since seasame oil plus other sauces can make the proteins a little too flavorful. Otherwise, I was barely able to finish my bowl, as it was just filled to the brim with food.
I have to also give a shoutout to the whole crew at PokeLab, as they were all wonderful people, greeted me as soon as I walked in, and answered any questions I had about any of the ingredients or the process. The whole restaurant was kept clean and my experience was enjoyable. I highly recommend you check them out for next "build-your-own" craving!
605 S Sixth St
11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily
Photos by AJ Taylor