CHOMP VS CHOMP: POKE EDITION
Oh, how times have changed for sushi restaurants in Vancouver. Once rulers of the land, eat-till-you-barf joints have mostly gone the way of the dinosaur, replaced by mango sauce rolls and $20 aburi sushi. While there’s still plenty of love for tried-and-true traditional Japanese spots for sushi, there’s a new raw fish obsession taking over the city: poké.
While poké is usually served as an appetizer in Hawaii, more recent adaptations popping up around North America are making more of a meal out of it by serving it in a bowl atop rice and/or salad. Poké stops have been cropping up all around the Lower Mainland lately. (And no, we’re not talking about those places people get extra pokeballs and razz berries.) With so many to try and only so much room in my stomach, we decided to take on poké bowls from three of the hottest poké places in town: Pokeritto, Poke Time, and The Poke Guy. To help keep things even, we chose featured ahi tuna as the main protein for each bowl. All three restaurants offer similar toppings: crab salad, pineapple, sunflower sprouts, cilantro, sweet onion, nori, and so on. From there, they do branch out with their own unique ingredients.
First up: The Poke Guy. I was a big fan of the mango slices in Poke Guy’s bowl. The rest of the ingredients were fresh, and the sweetness of the mango really balanced out the saltiness of the fish. It would’ve been good eats all around were it not for our choice of putting it all on top of a bed of potato salad. The combination was definitely an eyebrow raiser, so we had to give it a shot. To Poke Guy’s credit, the potato salad is pretty good! I would love to introduce it to a box of L.A. Chicken one day, but it just didn’t seem to fit in a poké bowl. The take out order came in a slim rectangular box made of recyclable paper material. It initially appeared to be a bit on the small side, but they definitely packed it full. Portion size was ultimately not a concern.
As the name might imply, “The Works” bowl from Poke Time contained several different toppings, including mandarin orange slices. There’s a lot going on in that bowl, pretty much guaranteeing that your next bite won’t be the same as your last. So if you get bored of your food easily, then “The Works” is the one for you. Despite the variety of ingredients available, though, nothing in particular really jumped out at us as being outstanding. It was good – definitely good enough to satisfy a poké craving, but that’s about it. In terms of packaging, the plastic circular container did the job but left a lot to be desired.
Of the three restaurants, Pokeritto appears to be generating the most buzz right now. Even before tasting the poké , we decided that Pokeritto had won the presentation category. This is not to say that the others don’t put thought into how their bowls are presented, but these guys seem to do it with just a little bit more care. The ingredients are layered nicely, nothing is over-sauced, and they put it all in a simple clear plastic bowl container. These are basic things, but it’s surprising how many places are content to hand you an ugly container with sauce oozing out of the sides. Looking the part is one thing, but the most important factor is whether or not it tasted any good. Thankfully, it does. Although Pokeritto’s un-marinated fish initially underwhelmed in comparison to the other two places, things really start to pick up once we started incorporating the rest of the toppings. For the record, their crab salad is awesome on its own and I actually preferred not to mix it in with the rest of the bowl. Pokeritto tasted the freshest and we all dug the “Umami” house sauce too. Everything was balanced and each bite was delicious.
In the end, it came down to which place we could see ourselves ordering from time and time again. Nodding in silent agreement while playing a game of chomp-chomp-pass with the three bowls, it became clear that Pokeritto was the winner of the inaugural poké battle. Poke Guy and Poke Time both had elements that were good, but just fell a bit short in comparison.
Do you have a favourite poké place in mind that deserves to be the champ? Let us know!
558 Dunsmuir St, Vancouver, BC
1258 Robson St, Vancouver, BC
The Poke Guy
420 Richards St, Vancouver, BC