By now, you've probably heard of poke—the raw ahi bowl with soy sauce and limu. A delicacy of Hawaii, it's made its way across the Pacific Ocean and right into the belly of Orange County. Thank God! Because poke is one of the best ways to eat fish ever, we've gathered the best places to eat it. Now, for fifty shades of pink…
10. California Fish Grill (multiple locations in OC)
At California Fish Grill, poke isn't the main dish but an appetizer. Served with chips, the ahi poke is thinly cut and lightly seasoned with soy sauce and Huy Fong's chili paste. Tiny onions add texture, and scallions give the plate a nice dose of color. Also, before you start scooping the fish with your chips, don't forget to grab the garlic butter.
Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, (949) 654-3838 23704 El Toro Rd, Lake Forest, (949) 586-4538 41 Auto Center Dr, Foothill Ranch, (949) 470-9600 5675 East La Palma Avenue, Anaheim, (714) 777-5710 419 S. Associated Road, Brea, (714) 482-2151 10569 Valley View Street, Cypress, 714-252-0001
9. Poke Etc (Long Beach)
Granted Poke Etc. is in Long Beach, it made it on this list simply because its poke is worth the drive (and, as Edwin reported a few months ago, there's supposed to be a second location opening in Lake Forest). At Poke Etc, you can by the fish by the pound or get it in a bowl with rice. For bowls there are 12 sauces to choose from; among them are traditional limu, shoyu, oyster, or kimchee sauce. Oh, and Poke Etc is known to be super generous with samples.
2292 E Carson St, Long Beach, (562) 988-8488
8. Poke District (Orange)
Though it's only opened about a month ago, Poke District is already building a reputation for its Pokinometry-style offerings. When you get to the counter, you choose between ahi tuna and salmon, pick from an array of amusingly named sauces (Wasabilicious, for example, is Wasabi aioli, and Godzilla is avocado aioli), and then add toppings like avocado, rice, or seaweed salad. The result is, possibly, the most organized-looking plate of poke you've ever seen.
1924 North Tustin Street, Orange, (714) 602-7907
7. Kawamata Seafood (Dana Point)
Tucked away in the corner of a residential area is a tiny, unassuming kingdom of delicious fish. The name of the local gem? Kawamata Seafood. One defining characteristic of the poke bowls here is balance. If someone came up to me and said Kawamata uses precise measurements for fish to sauce ratio, I'd believe it. Find yourself intrigued? Run to the ATM first. Yep, it's cash only.
26881 Camino De Estrella, Dana Point, (949) 248-1914
6. Sushi Boy (Irvine)
This one's for all the cheapskates out there (myself included): for $4.99, you can get a solid bowl of poke from Sushi Boy, in Irvine's Walnut Village Center. I repeat, $4.99! The bowl is a standard bowl (raw tuna, seaweed, soy sauce, sesame oil, diced scallions), but for that price… well, I'll take two.
14421 Culver Dr, Irvine, (949) 654-8111 6634 Irvine Center Dr, Irvine, (949) 788-0828
5. Fish Camp (Huntington Beach)
Fish Camp is another spot for those in Huntington Beach to get a bite of raw goodness. What's different special about this place? The added macadamia nuts give their poke a noticeable kick.
16600 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, (562) 592-2267
4. North Shore Poke Co. (Huntington Beach)
We all want to have a perfect day, and now we can: pick up some poke from North Shore Poke Co. and then eat it at the beach (you're welcome.) While the breeze hits your face and pier musicians perform an acoustic cover of the Black Key's “Little Black Submarine,” you'll be chewing on cold, raw ahi that's been bathed in soy sauce umami. Then for dinner, come back and grab another in a different flavor like Sunset and Haleiwa.
214 5th Street, Huntington Beach, (714) 465-9011
3. Poke at Costco (Tustin at The District)
The best thing to happen to Tustin might be the day Costco began selling poke every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (of course, until they sell out). According to Edwin's report on this last year, “Costco Tustin II's poke compares to what's sold at their Hawaii warehouses: it's tastes and costs exactly the same.” YES!
2700 Park Avenue, Tustin, (714) 338-1933
2. Bear Flag Fish Company (Newport Beach)
Some say simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication, and that reigns true at market-restaurant hybrid Bear Flag Fish Co. For fish, they offer yellowtail, mahi mahi, opah, and they stick to the basics: soy sauce, sesame seeds, green onions, Sriracha, and ahi salad leaves. Eat them in sushi style, with either brown or white rice, or opt for a side of warm tortilla chips—all of which are the perfect touch. Tip: they have two locations—one at Newport Peninsula and another at Crystal Cove promenade – so if one's too busy, you know where to go.
3421 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 673-3474 7972 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, (949) 715-8899
And the best place, of course, is…
1. PokiNometry (Anaheim)
What's the smell? Oh, it's that poke bowl you're holding. My god—is that sesame? When did sesame smell so… good?
Look carefully at the artwork (the poke bowl) and you'll notice how beautifully the fish sticks to the add-ons (for me, I usually go with crab meat and avocado.) As a result, each wave of destruction—err, bite—is an explosive burst of satisfying and light flavors. Whether you choose tuna, yellowtail, or albacore as your fish, each has a firm yet chewy enough texture – making it the perfect bite. Are you a dare devil who likes spice? I suggest grabbing a cold bottle of Calpico. You might need it.
184 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, (657) 208-3488