I know this is slightly different from our usual posts on here but my wife and I have always been “foodies,” as other people would call us. I would be more inclined to say that we are “lovers of food.” After our baby was born, our food adventures became non-existent, but as baby grows, our confidence to take him out grows with him. If a baby sitter is available, we will also try to take time for ourselves and food is always a welcomed mini-date. We have started baby on solid food as well, so I thought it would be appropriate to start a food section on this blog. We’ll be posting on our food ventures and any other food related topics.
This first entry is a review of various Poke Shops in Vancouver.
Over the last month or so my wife and I have been on a bit of a poke binge. We had some wonderful poke in Seattle which prompted me to question Vancouver’s poke scene. So, we set out to find as many poke places we could think of. We were able to try out eight places over the past month.
For each shop I’ll describe our experiences and I’ll also be touching on a few things including: the fish, stroller friendliness (since this is a family blog), the overall impression of the dish, and any extra thoughts we have.
DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL FOOD CRITIC NOR AM I A POKE EXPERT. Any criticism or suggestions are just opinions of a guy who likes to enjoy food.
Our first poke experience in Vancouver was at Poke Station. We were here before learning of the exploding poke scene in Seattle. Our memories of poke at this point were only from our previous trips to Hawaii, which were at least a year ago.
When you step into the restaurant you’ll find a small space, akin to most of the places on this list. There are two tables in the middle and stool seating on the right and by the entrance window. We found no issues parking our stroller beside us as we sat in one of the middle tables. So are they stroller friendly? Yes, definitely.
Here, you would build your own bowl [BYOB] starting from your base, which is usually rice, then your protein, which is the poke, and then the toppings, which vary from seaweed salad to various sauces.
We ordered our bowls. My wife had the regular size and I thought I would attempt the large. We received our bowls in clear plastic containers and honestly, I underestimated the size of the large. We also ordered some tea to go with our meal. The tea came cold. I expected hot tea, so I asked if the tea was supposed to be cold. The worker inspected the tea warmer and it seemed to be malfunctioning so she kindly offered to give us another beverage for free. Of course we accepted and got some lemonade or something. I don’t actually remember which we asked for.
The fish was cut into small cubes and was pre-marinated. Both my wife and I felt that the fish could have been more fresh and they were a little mushy. This may have just been a result of the marinade degrading the fish quicker because of the size of the cubes, but I’m not sure.
Overall, we felt that the portions here were huge, however, it seemed like greens were used as major filler. To me, this felt like a fish salad (albeit a good fish salad). Now some people may like that and I still enjoyed my meal, but that’s not what I was looking for. I was looking for simple fish on rice. If I come back here I’ll most likely ask for no greens. My wife enjoyed the sauces here, particularly the wasabi mayo.
Our next poke in Vancouver was at Pacific Poke. After reading google reviews of various poke shops in Vancouver, Pacific Poke appeared to stand out. When you walk into this place, you’ll immediately notice a bright environment with a modern accent. There are long tables down the middle as far as seating goes. While we were there, we nestled the stroller between two tables and sat beside it. Would we call this place stroller friendly? Yes, however I could see it being a tight squeeze if the place is busy.
This is another BYOB shop but they also have “chef inspired” bowls that you can order. My wife and I tried The Main and The Cali from their menu. We ordered, and then received our food in nice ceramic bowls. I thought presentation was well done.
The fish was once again cut into small cubes and pre-marinated. I had salmon and she had tuna. This time, I didn’t feel like the fish was mushy, however, my wife disagreed. I tried her fish and agreed that the tuna was on the mushy side here.
Overall, the bowl had a very clean and fresh taste that didn’t seem to rely on sauces as much as the previous shop. They also had a wasabi crunch topping that my wife enjoyed. There wasn’t as many greens in the bowl this time but after my meal, I still felt like I had eaten a fish salad. I needed to start asking for less greens.
My wife and I were split on this one. She preferred poke time but I preferred pacific poke, even though I wasn’t as full. Pacific Poke also offers poke panini’s, which I didn’t get a chance to try, but maybe in the future.
The Poke Guy
Upon entering the Poke Guy, we were met with a step that a stroller could easily navigate. Of course the space itself is very small with tables in the middle and stool seating on the right. The seating area is feels crammed and I definitely wouldn’t call this place stroller friendly. Luckily, we didn’t have the baby when we came here.
Instead of determining the price purely on the size of the bowl, at the Poke Guy, they adjust the price according to the poke you pick. They still have a regular and large size but if you mix your poke the price will be averaged after your order. My wife ordered the regular size and of course I had to order a large. With a large I had the option to pick three portions of protein. I decided to try their salmon, tuna and octopus. I was surprised to see mango and potato salad as options for toppings. I had to try how mango would be on poke and passed on the potato salad. We received our poke in nice ceramic bowls here which was also visually appealing.
The fish pieces here were definitely bigger than the previous shops and were pre-marinated. None of the fish felt mushy and the pieces tasted fresh enough. The poke that surprised me here wasn’t the salmon or tuna. I found the octopus extremely good.
Overall, the bowl was good and we enjoyed the bigger chunks of fish. We felt like the fish could have a little bit more marinade just to enhance the flavours. There were again less greens in this bowl than the last one but still felt like a salad. I didn’t learn from the previous bowls to ask for no greens. I also found that I made a mistake picking mango as a topping (although the mango was great by itself).
My wife and I again disagreed with our conclusions. She liked it much less than I did. This could have been because we had just discovered Seattle’s poke scene a few days prior to the Poke Guy, which is slightly unfair for this restaurant.
This is where the poke binge really begins. We visited the remaining poke places over a span of 3 days. We began with Poke Time. This restaurant isn’t the smallest but it isn’t the largest. To the left of the entrance, there’s a table and the right wall is lined with stool seating. There is definitely room for a stroller especially at the table by the front of the shop, but there’s also room behind the stool seating.
Just like Pacific Poke, here, you can either create your bowl or pick from a set menu. On their website, Poke Time is advertised as Vancouver’s first poke shop. I’m not sure if this is actually true but it’s definitely one of the first.
For our poke bowls, both my wife and I decided to get the Classic Hawaii style, Ahi.
The fish were great sized chunks and were easily the largest on the list so far. The fish was pre-marinated and seemed fairly fresh.
I LOVED that this didn’t feel like a salad. We loved the simplicity and the size of the fish we were given. Unfortunately, the marinade had too much garlic and my wife thought that it was slightly too salty, which made sense since I felt that I wanted more rice at the end. They also offered dole whip! We didn’t get a chance to try it because we had to move onto our next poke shop.
For our second poke place of that night we dropped by Pokeritto. The shop itself isn’t the smallest, though their seating area is. To the left of the entrance there is essentially a square where the majority of the seating was located. There were a few seats on the right along the wall as well. Could we get our stroller into the main seating area? Not without inconveniencing many people, including ourselves. There’s not much room on the few seats on the right as well. This place is definitely not stroller friendly.
Pokeritto is probably one of the most popular Poke places in Vancouver. This follows the format of both Poke Time and Pacific Poke where you can either BYOB or pick a set bowl. However, they also serve their poke in a different format. It’s a type of rice/seaweed burrito, hence their name, Pokeritto.
I went with the North Shore Bowl, which was with albacore tuna, and I ordered it to go since I was already somewhat full from Poke Time.
Pokeritto serves their fish slightly different from the previous poke shops. They toss their big chunks of fish in their sauces when you order. The fish tasted fresh and the sauces were nice complements to the dish.
Honestly, I was surprised and impressed with the quality of the fish and the taste of the sauces. Now I wish I had tried their Ahi tuna. Out of the eight poke places on this list, this is by far my second favorite.
As an extra fact, I was recently discussing poke with a Hawaiian local. He mentioned that he felt that tossing the fish in sauce/marinade to order was a “mainlander” thing since they always just pre-marinated their poke in Hawaii. I thought this was interesting because I felt that one of the reasons the fish at Pokeritto tasted fresh was because it wasn’t pre-marinated. Contrarily, the best poke I’ve tasted were pre-marinated. Perhaps the key lies in the size of the fish pieces.
The Poke Shop
The day after we visited Poke Time and Pokeritto, we thought that we would keep the momentum going and ended up at The Poke Shop. I’ll start by saying that this place is not stroller friendly. The shop is located at the bottom of a flight of stairs. We got around this by carrying baby in his carrier and folding up his stroller and carrying that down with us. The place itself has room for a stroller, but getting down may be a hassle that many people wouldn’t want to deal with especially if they’re alone.
This is of course another BYOB shop that advertises unlimited toppings. We went down the line and picked the size, protein and toppings. For my fish, I had to include salmon and tuna.
The fish were cut into big cubes but did not seem to be marinaded. They did things differently here. They didn’t toss their fish in sauces but instead poured sauces over the whole bowl.
I thought that these bowls were all about the sauces. This time my wife and I were accompanied by her sister and her sister’s fiance. We all thought the sauces were wonderful. The problem was that the sauces all pooled at the bottom, so the rice at the bottom was great, but most of the dish was a little lacking. If the fish was tossed in the sauces or pre-marinaded, we all agreed that the bowl would have been very good.
Hooked Poke Bar
Now, were getting close to the end of our list. After The Poke Shop, we ended up at Hooked Poke Bar. This is our second to last location and actually our last shop in Vancouver. This place is the newest poke shop on this list. As of publishing this article, they would probably be three to four weeks new. I had actually planned on going to here the day before but the timing didn’t work out, even with the owner offering to stay open an hour later to accommodate us, after I called to check their hours of operation. In the shop there are tables to your right and stools on your left. We were easily able to fit our stroller by us and I think it wouldn’t be a problem even during peak hours. So, yes, Hooked is stroller friendly.
Similar to a few of the others on this list, you can BYOB or pick a chef inspired bowl. I shared one of the tuna bowls with my wife. My sister-in-law shared a spicy salmon bowl with her fiance. Sorry I don’t actually remember the official names of the bowls.
Their fish were in large cubes, tasted very fresh, and was tossed in sauce upon ordering.
As one of their bases they offer green tea rice and we ordered it with our bowl. I couldn’t taste the green tea but my wife said she did. I don’t think it added anything to the dish and I probably wouldn’t get it next time. With that being said, Hooked is my favorite poke shop on this list. As a whole, everything tasted fresh, the flavours weren’t too light or over powering and they had great sauces that they make in-house.
When I was google mapping poke places in Vancouver I scrolled a little further south than I intended to and saw a red dot in the South Surrey/White Rock area. I clicked on it and it showed me Islands Cafe. After I had great coffee at Honolulu Cafe in Vancouver, I got excited at the thought of Hawaiian inspired coffee closer to home. Quickly, I realized that they served poke here as well. They offer one tuna poke bowl. We were all poke’d out at this point but because it was closer to home, we had to make an exception and went the day after. When we got there we were pleased to see that it was a good sized cafe with tables on the sides, in the middle and even a couch on one corner. We didn’t have any troubles fitting the stroller in. So, is it stroller friendly? Yes.
We ordered our poke bowls and when we received them, we were a little shocked at the sizes of the fish cubes. The pieces were massive! So what we got were huge marinated fish chunks on rice topped with sesame seeds.
My wife and I loved the size of the fish and I loved the simplicity of the bowl. This was something I had been looking for throughout the whole list. I just wanted fish on rice, and that’s what we got. At this point, this seems like a dream bowl for me right? I really, really, really wanted this place to be my favourite. Obviously it isn’t. Their downfall is in the marinade/sauce of the poke. The marinade was far TOO salty. Both my wife and I had troubles finishing the whole dish.
I talked to them about this issue and they were already aware of it and they seem to be working on it. With spring/summer (poke weather) around the corner, I hope they make their adjustments because I would love to go back. Preferably sooner, rather than later.
I know there are a few more poke places that I missed, but like I said earlier, we’re poke’d out. I want to reiterate that these are just our opinions and I recommend that you all check these places out yourself. If you disagree with anything in my review or if there are poke places you strongly feel that I need to check out, please leave a comment. If there’s other food you think we should check out in Vancouver, again, please leave a comment. I hope this helps anyone looking for poke in Vancouver.