This coming Friday marks the launch of the newest fast-food concept to emerge in Gastown, The Poké Shop, a cute and trendy restaurant that specializes in the much-adored Hawaiian dish poké. With a handful of Schema Magazine editors and writers, I had a chance to sample the simple yet cozy poké bar located on Water Street, across from the famous steam clock. The fare is a delicate mash-up (basically a well-balanced salad) of rice, fresh seafood (or meat), vegetables, and fruits.
While the menu does offer pre-designed poké bowl, Chef Brian Leung strongly recommends taking the adventurous route of building your very own custom dish. Chef Leung, a fifteen-year veteran in the food industry is best known as the mastermind behind popular local fast-casual chain, Teppan Kitchen.
I chose the following, using a very simple five-step process:
Base – Japonica White Rice and 12 Grain Organic Purple Rice
Proteins – Ahi Tuna (a must try!) and Wild Sockeye Salmon
Toppings – Macaroni Salad, Red Onion, Pickled Ginger, Red Radish, Beets, Pineapple, Mango, Pea Shoots, Carrots, Tomatoes, Cucumber, and Zuchhini
Sauces – Signature (a must try!) and BBQ Shoyu
Drink – Roasted Macadamia Milk Tea
The meal was both filling and delicious! Chef Leung believes the explosion of poké bars across Canada and the U.S. is driven by people who “are looking for healthy alternatives to standard fast food fare, but are seeking more excitement and choices than run-of-the-mill salad bars offer. We are offering our own twist on the build-your-own poke bowl concept that everyone can appreciate.” I agree!
Beyond simply the satisfaction that comes with eating good food among good company, I appreciated how I didn’t feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable from consuming a hearty amount of “fast-food”. It was comfort food without the regret. In fact, I actually felt pretty energized from all of the greens and the proteins I was taking in from just one serving.
The price of a poké bowl ranges between $12.95-$15.95 (CAD). With fresh ingredients that are not only delightfully seasoned, there is more variety than you could possibly try to manufacture on your own (without breaking the bank, of course).
Toppings include everything from macaroni salad, to pomegranate, to pea shoots and tobiko (fish roe). The selections are manifold and because of this anyone with any dietary restrictions can come and enjoy a meal without the common predicament of limited choice.
Beyond the novelty of trying a new dish I had never heard of before, I also learned that the poké bowl has some metaphorical significance. Perhaps speaking to our aspirations of pluralism on the west coast. The poké bowl offers an alternative to the analogy of the “melting pot”, used to describe a slow but sure assimilation of cultures and different ways of life into the mainstream. At a time when we really are reflecting on who we are as a cosmopolitan city, this stretch of the multicultural meaning undergirding the makeup of a poké bowl is totally justifiable.
Of course, the dish may not always be appreciated in this manner. But hey, it sure does provide a new way of looking for meaning in the convenience-driven food we consume in terms of your health and in terms of your psyche.
The Poké Shop officially launches November 18, 2016 and is located at 306 Water St., in Gastown (Vancouver, BC). Find their menu and directions at thepokeshop.ca