My “Caribbean” cultural instincts would deceive me into thinking that raw fish is a definite no-no! However, if you’re remotely tuned into the food and dining scene in Hamilton the past couple months, you’d know that Pokeh (Canada’s first and only Poke restaurant) is causing delirium among diners with it’s intoxicating flavors and textures.
If you didn’t already know…
Poke is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. Poke began with fishermen seasoning the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack.Traditional poke seasonings have been heavily influenced by Japanese and other Asian cuisines. These include soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil. Others include furikake (mix of dried fish, sesame seeds, and dried seaweed), chopped dried or fresh chili pepper, limu (seaweed), sea salt, inamona (roasted crushed candlenut), fish eggs, wasabi, and Maui onions.
Pokeh came to Hamilton via Venice Beach (watch the video below), so you’ll find that the style of Poke served here is very “California” in nature. You start off with a base of rice or noodles as the foundation to which you now build your levels with an assortment of vegetables, seeds, flavor oils and sauces and then your choice of line caught Tuna or Salmon (yes there are vegetarian options).
Since the full review is covered in the video below I’ll touch on what we ‘test-drove’ and some of the key points which really stood out for us.
Hamilton Farmers’ Market
Lower Level West Side
35 York Blvd. Hamilton, ON
Social (Twitter and Instagram) @pokehbar
Tehya had the Spicy Bowl: Ahi Tuna, Spicy QP Mayo, Soy Sauce/Sesame Oil, Green/White Onions, Cucumbers, Black/White Sesame Seeds, Spicy Sesame Seeds, House Pickled Jalapenos
Myself and Chef Marc enjoyed the Garden Ginger Bowl: Ahi Tuna, Carrots, Kale, Jicima, Pumpkin Seeds, Cucumber, Green Onions, Sesame Seeds, and White onions. Topped with peashoots, Radish and sorrel… ginger and sesame dressing. Seen in the image at the top of the page.
- Both the owner and chef (his brother) are VERY friendly and their passion for what they are doing shines through in both their disposition and in the delightful bowls of poke. (btw they owner is also a chef, food truck owner and former competitive BBQ champ)
- The food is as fresh, vibrant and tasty as food can get (one of the best lunch I’ve ever had)
- I would recommend sitting at the bar, watch how your poke is prepared and enjoy the dish in the moment. The vibe at Pokeh is lively and it’s a great spot to also people watch (people shopping at the market)
- Don’t be intimidated if it’s your first time at Pokeh. You can order from the pre-set menu items (images on the menu will be helpful) or be a bit creative and pretend you’re playing with your Lego as a child and build your own creation. Feel free to ask questions, everyone is very friendly.
- Yes, there are daily specials
- Yes there are vegetarian and vegan (and I believe gluten friendly) options
- We did not try the salmon, but I assure you you’ll be impressed by the tuna (remember I said I come from a culture where raw fish is NOT generally accepted.. and I was blown away)
- If you’re taking Pokeh home with you, mention this to the chef and he’ll package it so you don’t get cooked fish by the time you’re home.
- The flavors of the sesame oil and ginger are NOT bold in your face. Quite subtle, refreshing and works as an excellent accent to the other ingredients.
- Did I say FRESH?
- You’ll be surprised at how filling the bowls of Poke are. BUT I did not feel bloated or generally uncomfortable as when I would have a burger or heavy/greasy type meal (where you’d feel lethargic and start falling asleep at your desk)
- We sat eating/chatting for a good 45 mins and the bowl of poke (all ingredients) maintained their individual integrity. At no time did it all turn to mush!
- NO matter which option you go for.. ask for the thinly sliced jalapenos as a topping
- Get for a fork.. chopsticks prevents you from getting a GOOD mouthful (insert smile here)
The #Gallivanting crew were unanimous is saying that Pokeh treated us to one of the most delightful bowls of wholesomeness in QUITE a while and you’ve converted us not only into lovers of poke, but evangelists of Pokeh!