Disclaimer: All food was complimentary but opinions are my own
I was invited to the soft opening of The Poke Shop in Gastown and I brought along Foodology, Foodgressing and C’est La Vie A Maggi. Since this was a soft opening, things may change slightly in the coming months as they tweak their operations.
The Poke Shop is located on Water Street next to Water Street Cafe and across from the steam clock. The store signage isn’t that noticeable if you’re not looking for it.
You will need to go down some stairs to find the shop.
We found the interior to be warm and spacious with a fair amount of seating. Currently they offer two bowl sizes: the large ($12.95) and the super large ($15.95). They are looking to rename the sizes though. By the way, the last time I checked, their website is not up to date yet. It says they will offer Dole Whip, Hawaiian shaved ice and Hawaiian short bread cookies but those are still in the works.
For the base, they offer: white rice, purple rice, mixed greens or zoodles (zucchini noodles). I was intrigued by the purple rice since I don’t see that a lot so I picked that for my base. You can get some of each too!
For the proteins, they have: ahi tuna, albacore tuna, atlantic salmon, wild sockeye salmon, baby scallop, BBQ unagi, oven roasted organic chicken, and grilled organic chicken. I got one scoop ahi tuna and one scoop BBQ unagi.
This is the first poke place I’ve seen to offer chicken! It’s nice if you’re dining with someone who doesn’t eat raw fish. You can choose two scoops of protein for your bowl and an additional scoop is $2.
The Poke Shop offers the largest variety of toppings I’ve seen so far and toppings are also unlimited! They have 30 toppings to choose from! I won’t name them all but a few interesting ones are fresh strawberry slices, pomegranate, watermelon, peaches, beets and red radishes. I didn’t expect that they would have so many fruit options although I’m not sure how I feel about watermelon…?
Next you get to choose your sauces. They have a signature sauce, horse radish aioli, sweet chili, BBQ shoyu, miso, wasabi, and spicy sauce to choose from.
We were all very excited to customize our poke bowls and I managed to try most of the proteins. All their fish is marinated and super tasty! I tried the BBQ unagi which came in small chunks and it had a more firm texture since it was cooked but I’m glad it’s an option! The purple rice was also a good choice since it has many health benefits compared to white rice (or so I’ve heard) and I enjoyed the chewier texture. Everything was just fresh and delicious and I polished off my bowl in no time. They couldn’t tell us what’s in the signature sauce but we all liked it.
They also offer signature bowls if you don’t want to customize your own but they were not available that day.
The drinks ($3.50 on its’ own or +$2 as a combo) were also surprisingly good. On the left we have the Pineapple Plantation Iced Tea, Roasted Macadamia Milk Tea, and Hawaiian Chocolate and Coffee Milk Tea. The pineapple plantation iced tea had real pineapple bits at the bottom and it was basically like iced tea with pineapples but it wasn’t weird at all. It was refreshing and went well with the poke bowls and overall tropical theme.
The roasted macadamia milk tea had a very strong tea flavour and bits of ground up macadamia nut mixed in. I didn’t like the added texture of the nuts because it felt grainy to me but they do use real nuts and it wasn’t that sweet.
My favourite drink was the Hawaiian chocolate and coffee milk tea. It had chocolate cookie crumble on top and chocolate bits at the bottom that you can stir up and chew a little. It was a great blend of chocolate and coffee flavours.
We asked chef and co-owner Brian Leung to help us make a pretty bowl and model the super large size.
The super large size is 40 oz and the large size is 26 oz. In this case the large size was half eaten so that’s why it wasn’t filled up!
The Poke Shop’s logo is adorable and I love how they painted waves on the wall. In terms of service, they had a lot of staff who pumped out poke bowls and drinks quickly for the crowd of friends and family who came to the soft opening so it seems like they’ll be able to operate efficiently from the get-go.
I think The Poke Guy is going to have some competition but there’s plenty of poke to go around! There’s a poke store for everyone and it just comes down to your personal preference. My favourites are now The Poke Guy and The Poke Shop.
On another note, has anyone heard of the “phorrito”? Basically it’s pho in a burrito! Maybe that will be the next big thing! Let’s make this happen Vancouver! #phorrito