Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Portland Food Trend: Poke

This recent poke craze in Portland is seemingly great news if you like poke- and we do- but behind the hype, do the new poke spots really satisfy our raw fish cravings?

In December, we wrote about the $7.99 poke from World Foods in the Pearl, and were so excited about the anticipated openings of Bamboo Sushi Annex and Poke Mon. We tried both and took a stab at homemade poke. Here's the rundown.

What: Bamboo Sushi Annex
Where: 1122 SW Stark St

When Katie and I have busy weeks where we might not see each other for happy hour, Bachelor viewings, wine drinking, or more recently puppy play dates, we try to have lunch.

A few months ago, we hit up Bamboo Sushi's recently opened (when we went it was only two days old) "The Annex".

Faced with the option of building our own bowls atop rice, salad, or chips, or picking from the signature dishes, we decided to opt for one of their creations, assuming that if they developed a specific combination, it's probably because they know best.

We shared a Bamboo Bowl ($13) with Oregon Albacore, Avocado, Fried shallots, scallion, nori, and green machine sauce.

We also tried the Poke Nachos ($10) with chips, spicy tuna, krab salad, yuzu guac, fried shallot, fried garlic, habanero masago, cilantro, creamy habanero masago sauce, and eel sauce.

The green machine sauce on the Bamboo Bowl was pretty sweet and uninspired, and the texture - or lack of it - of the nachos made for a less than ideal experience. I would have definitely opted for a second bowl instead.

What: Poke Mon
Where: 1485 SE Hawthorne Blvd

Next poke stop: Poke Mon. After The Annex, I had high hopes that this would be the poke I'd been dreaming of.

Typically when we go out for sushi, I lean toward salmon rolls and Adam towards tuna, so when there is a salmon poke option I'm all about it. The Garlic Salmon Poke ($10.75) with red onion, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, citrus, and garlic ponzu, was fresh, but didn't have any real kick.

Adam's Spicy Ahi Donburi ($9.75) with minced fresh ahi, sweet onion, cucumber, bubu arare, sweet shoyu, nori and creamy spicy sauce was the best price point of the bowls so far, but we learned (and Katie and I already knew this because of the nachos at The Annex) that the minced ahi in a poke bowl doesn't provide much excitement in terms of texture.

Since our bowls were $3 cheaper than at The Annex, we also got a side of the House Mac Salad ($3). It was okay, but generally mac salad is just kind of okay in my opinion.

What: Homemade Salmon and Tuna Poke Bowls
Where: Katie and Doug's House (jk, Ziggy's House)
Honeys Heart: How easy homemade poke is!

Doug and I were set to make to make two different types of poke together, but then Doug and Katie went and got an adorable puppy so while Katie, Adam, and I did this....

... Doug made dinner and it was delicious. We neglected to take photos (we will plan to make this Adam's responsibility moving forward), but I've included the photos from the blogs where we found our recipes to give you the idea.

Through some gchat recipe sharing, Doug and I selected the Salmon and Avocado Poke Bowl from the blog Just Putzing Around the Kitchen with sushi-grade salmon, avocado, red onion, green onions, soy sauce, white sugar, sesame oil, ginger, and sesame seeds.

The amazing thing about poke is you really just have to chop and combine all the ingredients and then it can refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Great option when hosting a small dinner and you want to minimize cooking, but maximize fancy. We served both our poke's on rice, so that was the only thing that required some heat.

The second recipe we selected was a Hawaiian Raw Tuna Salad from Serious Eats, with tuna, onion, scallion, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, and optional crushed red pepper.

This particular poke bowl called for hijiki and wakame, dried seaweeds that can easily be found in any Japanese market, that you then let sit in hot water for about 5 minutes. We bought seaweed salad anyway, so we could have skipped this part. 

The homemade poke was better than either bowl at Poke Mon and The Annex, and it's so easy! My grocery shopping did remind me why sushi and poke are so expensive. I spent $75 on salmon, tuna, two sakes (cheap ones), and seaweed salad, but it did serve four people and made much more than we would have gotten in any $11-13 bowl.

Overall, I would say skip the high prices, and make it at home!