Poké, Go! NYC's Latest Food Fad

Alyson Penn

As islands go, Manhattan’s is doing its best Maui impression. Joining the recent tiki bars trend is a tide of places serving the popular Hawaiian dish poké. So what exactly is poké (pronounced “poh-kay” and not to be confused with the also-popular Pokémon)? Traditionally, the dish includes raw fish (usually tuna) sliced into cubes, seasoned and served with various toppings. Imagine a drier, heartier ceviche, or a sushi salad. Now that you know what it is, here’s where to catch it.

This new spot in Chinatown combines Hawaiian poké with Japanese chirashi, or “scattered sushi.” And it takes its bowls seriously. The chef, Michael Jong Lim, has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants Aldea and Aureole, and will not make substitutions. Options include Goma Shoyu Tuna (bluefin tuna, goma shoyu, chili oil, nori, hijiki, avocado and garlic chips) and Ponzu Salmon (Scottish salmon, wasabi ponzu, shiso, avocado, tobiko and shichimi).

Courtesy, Chikarashi

Noreetuh means “playground” in Korean—and the sit-down restaurant lives up to its name with fun Hawaiian dishes like mentaiko spaghetti (with seaweed and butterfish) and corned beef tongue musubi (a play on Hawaii’s beloved Spam sushi roll), in a casual setting. The two poké dishes—shrimp and big-eye tuna—are appetizers. The latter gets plenty of buzz for its unusual inclusion of macadamia nuts and pickled jalapeños.

Noreetuh. Photo: Evan Sung

This restaurant served poké before it was an NYC trend (the Williamsburg place opened in 2013) and is still a solid choice for Hawaiian fare. The ahi tuna poké appetizer incorporates white onions, seaweed, green onions, sesame seeds—and no rice.

The most mainstream of NYC’s poké places is this popular Midtown lunch spot. The small national chain—which has locations in California and two forthcoming in Boston and Seattle—offers eight premade bowls, or diners can customize, choosing a protein, base, mix-ins, flavors, toppings and crunch. Those bases include the standard grain bowl, a “pokiritto” (like a sushi burrito) or a salad of romaine lettuce.

Courtesy, Pokéworks

Diners can order poké or bento at this family-owned newbie. Each protein comes with a different, preset combination of mix-ins. You can go for staples like salmon or spicy tuna, or more adventurous choices like octopus and king crab, and choose a base of rice or green salad and “crunchies” like wonton strips or cornflakes. The end results are colorful, flavorful bowls.

Sons of Thunder
This Murray Hill spot serves all-American classics like chili, hot dogs and milkshakes, but it’s the poké that hogs the spotlight. Bowls of tuna, salmon and tako octopus come with rice or tortilla chips and are accompanied by greens and seaweed salad. The veggie poké (with beets) gets high marks, too.

Sons of Thunder. Courtesy, Basil Kim

Wisefish Poké
This reasonably priced fast-casual spot in Chelsea has about a zillion different options for your poké bowl, including mix-ins like fresh ginger mojo (that’s a sauce) and jalapeño sea beans and toppings like crunchy onion and Hawaiian sea salt for no additional charge. If you’re carb conscious, consider zucchini noodles as your base instead of white or brown rice.


Courtesy, Wisefish Poké