While this year's wave of Hawaiian poké places continues to wash over Vancouver, a new spot is hoping to offer something a little bit different from the rest.
With stylish, modern décor and a high-ceilinged room that seats about 20 people, Pacific Poke opened the doors to its 1,150-square-foot Chinatown eatery at 625 Main Street on December 1.
Chef and co-owner Ryan Mah, who formerly worked at Yaletown's Goldfish Pacific Kitchen, told the Georgia Straight that his team wanted to bring a new standard of poké to the city.
"We know that this city is already hardwired to eat raw fish," he said, with a laugh. "We know the demand is there. It's just a matter of, 'Can we offer them something that they haven't seen before?' "
Mah channeled his interest clean-eating and healthy food into the menu, along with a desire to be creative with flavours.
He emphasized that this is a West Coast—or more specifically, a very Vancouver—interpretation of poké: "We didn't try and bring Hawaii here."
Like other poké places, the menu follows the build-your-own-meal model.
Customers can choose from bases of traditional sushi rice, organic brown rice, organic quinoa, or organic kale salad. (Regular size is $12 and large is $14.)
You can choose your own protein (salmon, tuna, negitoro, crab and shrimp, and more), sauce (miso mayo, spicy mayo, sesame shoyu, pacific ponzu, and more), and toppings (such as ginger jicama, red beets basil, tomato kimchi, organic seaweed salad, jalapeno, or avocado nori), or you can choose from four pre-arranged selections.
For example, the Keefer bundles together ahi and albacore tuna negitoro, avocado, nori, wasabi peas, herbs, sesame shoyu, and lime juice ($13).
For vegetarians, there's the Veggie bowl, with marinated organic tofu, pickled seasonal vegetables, kale and beets, herbs, sprouts, and sesame miso and wasabi dressing.
There are also specials, such hamachi ahi tuna with young coconut, ponzu, koshu, shoyu, lime, shiso, crab, and shrimp ($16), which is only available on Wednesdays (which they're now calling, appropriately enough, "Hamachi Hump Day").
Mah pointed out that anyone can opt for little to no sauces or dressing if they want to eat their food clean.
Also, instead of following the pack and offering sushi-style poké burrito like other places, Mah created something different for his menu: poké paninis.
Mah explained that he wanted to still have a handheld food item while also providing a warm-food option (perfect for the weather that Chillcouver is currently experiencing).
While putting poké into a grilled sandwich may seem antithetical to the idea of raw fish, Mah explained that they've worked out a method that prevents the fish from being cooked.
"We wrap them [the sandwiches] tight and then we chill them a little bit so when you make an order, your Panini is under the grill for 60 seconds," he said. "It's just enough to heat the bread and crisp the bread, and because the inside is ice-cold—I put the fish in the middle so all the accoutrements that go with it are on the bread and the fish is in the dead centre—so the heat barely makes it to the fish."
It did take a lot of testing though, Mah said, in order to get it just right but he's confident they've got the right technique down now.
Another warm food option is soup: a bowl of creamy white miso mushroom (with leeks and kale) is $4.50.
To wash it all down, there are a selection of housemade drinks, such as strawberry green tea and yuzu lemonade ($3).
While Mah said that the menu will expand in the near future and may change over time, there's plenty for customers to get acquainted with for the time being.