Food review: Poki Bowl serves up trendy Hawaiian delicacies

July 21, 2016, 9:30 p.m.

It’s a hot summer day. The sun glares at you as beads of sweat run down your neck. Most people would opt for a cool glass of water or an icy popsicle. But these days, a new, trendy summer dish has come along: “poke,” or fish salad.

Founded by co-owners Nick Nguyen and Charlie Le, “Poki Bowl” is a casual, Bay Area-based eatery that serves the traditional Hawaiian appetizer poke. The main idea of Poki Bowl is to provide a quick, delicious bite that can be customized to anyone’s tastes. The customization of the poke begins with the selection of a bowl size ($9.50 for small, $10.95 for large). Customers can choose from rice and salad bases to complement scoops of both raw and cooked seafood (salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, octopus). Toppings including vegetables and crab meat (avocado, cucumbers, onions, green onions, masago eggs, seaweed mix, sesame seeds, wasabi, ginger, imitation crab) and flavorful sauces (non-spicy, mild, spicy, spicy mayo) give a finishing touch to the coined “sashimi in a bowl.”

Upon opening the door to the busy establishment, I first notice that the restaurant is relatively small — there is only enough space for the kitchen, the counter and a few tables on the side. An ice cream freezer and condiments table take up the remaining standing room. Counter attendants are generally fast and courteous, but they do not explain the process of ordering, which leaves me, as a first-time customer, confused. Regardless, I take a quick glance at the menu and jump right into ordering my meal: a small bowl with a brown rice base, three scoops of diced and marinated seafood (shrimp, tuna and octopus), cucumbers, avocado and imitation crab. A dash of mild sauce and sesame seeds complete my bowl of poke. And although the dish initially seemed pricey to me, the generous servings of seafood make the food well worth it.

The colorful presentation of the platter is visually pleasing to the eye, with a clear view of almost all of the ingredients. A quick stir of the bowl blends the various tastes together beautifully. The more mellow flavors of the rice and vegetables perfectly balance the succulent seafood and tangy dressing. The soft rice and avocado mend well with the tender fish, while the cucumber and sesame seeds add a bit of crunch to the appetizing dish.

After munching away at the very filling sashimi bowl, I head back into Poki Bowl to grab a macaron ice cream sandwich provided by Mavens Creamery. The desert washes away the strong flavor of the seafood that remains on my tongue, and it floods my taste buds with a sweet, chilling tang.

Poki Bowl offers a wide variety of fresh and bountiful fixings for an inexpensive price. With two locations in San Jose and an impending venue right near Stanford campus, the eatery proves itself a rightfully popular joint for all.

Contact Ashley Phuong at ashleyaphuong ‘at’

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