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The Pinnacle of Poke Bowls

Columns Ono, You Know

March 23, 2015

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Bodie Collins

I’m on a poke binge. Just the mere thought of Hawaiian-seasoned raw tuna makes my mouth water. And since I’ve grown up with this stuff, it’s safe to say that poke is my go-to food memory that always brings me back to memories of my ohana. Whether eaten solo or with rice, poke is delicious; pair it with the right ratio of seasonings and sauces, and it’s broke the mouth fantastic!

This week, the following restaurants put the “Ono” in Ono, You Know, as they bring out the best in poke. Although each establishment wouldn’t divulge each and every secret to their specific poke dish, I “poke’d” the chefs enough to at least let me sample. And sample I did — OK … devoured is more like it — but all that matters is that fresh poke, flavored just right, and placed atop a bed of warm rice is winners! Jib, jab, punch and poke, what I will do for some onolicious poke!

Big City Diner

I can’t say enough about Big City Diner, as the award-winning, family-friendly,neighborhood restaurant doesn’t hold back on taste. I’m all about savory, and BCD’s menu explodes with flavor-packed dishes, all “Hawaiian-Style.” Very familiar with the restaurant’s $10.99 Weekday Specials, I suggest stopping by during Week #1 for Spicy Ahi and Avocado Poke Bowl with Wasabi Oil and Week #4 for Spicy Ahi and Avocado Poke Bowl with Sriracha Aioli.

“The poke bowl seemed to fit a current demand. It fit our personality, as far as local flavors go, but with a twist,” says executive chef Dennis Franks, who notes that the poke bowls aren’t BCD’s tradi tional BIG dishes, but it’s enough to leave you content.

In my opinion, the portion size is perfect, because who can deny a fabulous dessert? Am I right?

For either poke bowl, choose between white or brown rice that’s seasoned with Ray Chan’s poke sauce and topped with melt-in-your-mouth morsels of fresh ahi.

“We add bits of chopped white onion, smother it with Sriracha aioli or wasabi aioli, dust it with furikake and green onion and finally finish it off with fresh avocado and pickled pink ginger. Avocado and pink ginger repeatedly cleanse the palate to en joy the flavors of our poke bowl,” shares the chef.

I kid you not, I wasn’t fully living until I tried BCD’s poke bowls. Give it a try, you’ll be amazed. There really is “no diner finer then Big City diner.”

Big City Diner
Pearlridge East
98-211 Pali Momi St., Ste. 900

Ahi & Vegetable

Ahi & Vegetable's #9 Spicy Ahi Bowl ($9 bowl, $11 set)

Ahi & Vegetable’s #9 Spicy Ahi Bowl ($9 bowl, $11 set)

The name Ahi & Vegetable kind of gives it away that this indeed is a place for poke bowls. Ever since the eatery opened in Fort Street Mall, the poke selections have been immediate favorites — so much so, the restaurant expanded to a new locale in Ka-palama Center on Dillingham Boulevard.

And because of Ahi & Vegetable’s loyalty to local tuna from the fish auction and daily in-house fish processing (the Dilling-ham location has a chilled room reserved for cutting and preparing fish for both eateries), the poke selections are phenomenal. Owner Sam Seo originally was trained in Japanese restaurants, so he appreciates the authenticity of Japanese-style fish preparation, and combines it with island-inspired nuances.

Spicy Ahi Bowl ($9) will do the trick when I need to satisfy a dire craving for poke, but when I want to pamper my palate, Ikura and Spicy Ahi Combo ($11) calls my name. Fresh ahi is tossed in Ahi & Vegetable’s secret house-made spicy sauce, and the ikura traces its origins to Canada. Placed atop a bed of rice, the dish harkens a blissful satisfication that can’t be duplicated.

According to Seo, a rich red hue is one indication of freshness — the taste and texture are other ways to guage the quality of the fish. He says the ahi should be a bit chewy, almost having a mochi-like consistency.

Besides poke bowls (donburi), Ahi & Vegetable serves set meals, sashimi platters, bentos, nigiri sushi and more. There’s plenty of fish in the sea, and this one in particular especially is onolicious!

Ahi & Vegetable
Kapalama Center
1210 Dillingham Blvd.

(and Fort Street Mall location)
845-3500