Vv Magazine’s latest column explores the latest all things edible. Check back every Monday to see what’s new in Toronto food and restaurant trends.
Summer may be shortly coming to a close but that’s no reason to stop eating clean and summery! You should f*cking eat this: Poke bowls (not to be mistaken with Poke Balls).
What is poke? Poke originated in Hawaii and is a protein salad of sorts, typically made with raw fish and occasionally served over a base like rice. It is very delicious in its OG form (soy sauce, sesame oil, onion) and is also very open to interpretation today. This summer season, Poke shops have sprouted all over Toronto and this photogenic meal has left us clamouring to get in on the action. Here’s where you too can get the fish-filled dish:
New on the block:
112 Elizabeth St, #1
No fuss, just straight up poke. This very central location has both a menu and a build your own poke option. Picking individual elements is tempting, but so are the preset bowls like the PG’s Bowl; salmon in a classic shoyu sauce with masago, edamame, corn, fried onion, pickled red ginger and black & white sesame seeds, over white rice or the Signature Cali Bowl; salmon, tuna, white rice, avocado, seaweed salad, kimchi, radish, pickled ginger, sesame, and scallion. Vegetarians are also welcome with a custom bowl of their own that features shoyu-marinated tofu instead of fish.
207 Dundas Street West
Roll up to Rolltation! Though their highly Instagrammable sushi burritos have stolen some of the spotlight, don’t sleep Rolltation’s poke bowl varieties. Choose you own adventure by picking your own base, protein, sauces, veggies and “crunch” topper. And as far as selection goes, you can go quite wild with options unseen elsewhere, like purple potato, jicama, pork floss, cheese, kidney beans, tangerine, bacon bits… the list goes on.
Big Tuna Poke Bar
599 Bloor Street West
Poke in Koreatown! At Big Tuna Poke Bar, there are four signature bowls and a build your own poke bar as well. The signature bowls digress from purely Hawaiian flavours, borrowing influence from Mexico and Japan. For example, a Mexican-inspired option has salmon with pistachios, salsa, cucumber, corn and a house-made salsa verde. Also worth noting, they are only a 10-seat eatery but licensed so you can wash it all down with an ice-cold beer. Vegetarians can enjoy a vegan poke bowl with ponzu-soy dressed agedashi tofu and pickled shitake mushrooms.
Lawai’a Poke Bar
Love poke so much, you’d eat it in bed, at an event or the office? Lawai’a is poke-catering business that wants to deliver you the goods. They champion a “local ingredients, Hawaiian influence” philosophy. Vegetarians may love Lawai’a as they can choose from two options, either edamame balls or tofu for their protein, and pick zucchini noodles for their poke bowl base. Or go traditional and order up the pure and simple: The OG which comes with yellowfin tuna, sweet white onion, chili flakes, nori, green onion, Hawaiian sea salt and sesame oil. Oh ya, and you can also BYOB (build your own bowl).
1279 Queen Street West
Toronto breakout Hawaiian establishment? I think so! Miss Thing’s is Vogue Magazine-approved. This Polynesian Parkdale gem has a menu chock full of Hawaiian dishes but a staple on their menu will always be the “Hoki Poke”. Try this version of Ahi tuna poke with avocado, sesame dressing, tobiko, nori and taro chips for tastes that are meant to honor tradition.
176 Dupont Street
Big Crow came very early to the party on this food trend and has had poke on the menu since the beginning. Of course, they’d made their version out be the perfect cool-down-course for any BBQ feast. Check out their interpretation – it’s a Red Pine salmon poke with ginger, peanuts, chili, soy, furikake and tortilla chips.
The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West
Just like Drake the rapper, The Drake Hotel always does a great job at staying ahead, and sometimes right on the curve. Which is why it’s no surprise they added poke to their summer ’16 menu. This rendition is a salmon poke with coconut, mango, cucumber, peanuts, chili, soy, lime and crunch of chicken skin.
179 Baldwin Street
It could be a few more day or weeks until we see North Poke open its doors in Kensington Market, but surely it will be worth the wait! Keep your eyes peeled on North Poke and Foodora’s Instagram accounts, because they’ve started popping up with special delivery hours to satiate us during the wait. Drooling over the menu also helps, like imagining a build-your-own poke bowl over black rice.
Did we miss any new poke restaurants? Have a suggestion for where we should f*cking eat next? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.