Poke can be simple or complicated, tame in flavor or boldly spiced. The one constant in the poke equation is this: the foundation starts with cubes of raw tuna. Beyond that, a poke recipe is open for interpretation. Or at least it is in the hands of local chefs. Click “more” to read about a few interesting poke dishes I’ve sampled around town recently, and please tell me about your favorite poke.
Food historians trace poke, pronounced poke-ay, to Hawaii. In its most basic form, it’s cubes of tuna washed with soy and served with seaweed. In the hands of local chefs, it gets varying treatments. Take a look:
At Gari of Sushi in Tacoma’s Lincoln District, the poke salad ($9.95) was salty with an unctuous texture. Soy-splashed cubes of tuna were velvety-salty against snappy, opaque wafers of cucumber and a tangle of crunchy, brackish seaweed.
At TwoKoi near the University of Washington Tacoma campus, the poke salad tasted completely different: sweet with spicy leanings. Cubes of tuna came mixed into a green salad (paper-thin rounds of carrots, radishes, lettuce and avocado) and coated in a sauce that tasted similar to that commercial bottled sweet chile sauce you can buy at the East Asia supermarket in the Lincoln district. Quite flavorful, but I’m not a fan of the composition – too sweet. The dish also was spendy at $13.
And then there is the poke salad at Social Bar and Grill and an unexpected bargain-priced poke find at Sushi Station in Puyallup. Two of my favorites around town, and not just because of their value. Take a look:
The win: Social poke. One of the purest flavored pokes I’ve sampled in town, and such a good value.
Where: Social Bar and Grill, 1715 Dock St., Tacoma; 253-301-3835
The price: $9 (or $7 at Happy Hour)
The dish: Sake and soy kissed cubes of dark red tuna with a light, but slightly kicky note of heat. Served with a salty portion of seaweed, and black and white sesame seeds. The portion was generous.
The win: Sushi Station poke. I call this the poor-man’s sushi only because it’s bargain priced at $3.50.
Where: Sushi Station, 10305 156th St. E., Puyallup, 253-604-4321
The dish: One of the most simple preparations I’ve encountered, this was a vinegar and soy kissed helping of tuna on a cucumber-lettuce salad, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Very clean, pure flavors and really straightforward. It’s served at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, so most dishes are $3-$4 or less.
YOUR TURN: Tell me where you’ve enjoyed poke worth mention. Do you like the poke on the Noodle Bar menu at Pacific Grill? How about the poke Napoleon at the Green.House in Gig Harbor? Go, now. Tell us. Comment here.