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We prefer making our own to going with the menu at Pokéworks.

Image: Alice Levitt

We all know the truth: Most poke restaurants that focus on a Chipotle-style "You, you, you—not you" format are, at best, schlocky. (Incidentally, it shares space with both Chipotle and Starbucks at 213 Heights Boulevard.) We can't really blame them. It's partly our own greed as diners that causes them to trade in quantity before quality. We both know you're not going to pay sushi restaurant prices for that third scoop of protein. And for these reasons, I expected to find the Heights' first spot devoted to poke to underwhelm. But this is a time we were happy to be wrong.

With locations from Vancouver to New York's Grand Central Station with 24 more locations about to be added to the existing dozen, Pokéworks is about as mega a megachain as there is in the world of chopped fish. But don't hate yet. This is a time that quantity and quality work together. Take, for example, my bowl centered around a base of skinny noodles green with kale. Besides typical white and brown rice, there are also quinoa, romaine lettuce or spring mix, and poke burritos.

There are seven proteins, including cooked chicken, and raw scallops and shrimp, along with basics like salmon and two kinds of tuna. There's no question about my favorite option: I asked for double chopped shiso (Japanese mint) and next time, I'll ask for triple. My favorite herb illuminates the bowl in a way even cilantro can't, though I included some of that, too.

At a certain point, I started worrying that I was taking advantage of the all-you-can-add (except for a few extra-cost items like wasabiko and macadamia nuts) philosophy, but pressed on with ribbons of kale, cucumbers, diced mango and masago. Sauces range from basic ponzu to bright-green wasabi aioli to my favorite, spicy ginger. I completed my meal with tiny garlic crisps for crunch as well as aesthetically pleasing lotus chips, which my "poke artist" neatly placed standing up in the pile of ingredients.

This whole process lasted about three minutes and for less than $15, I was on my way back to the office with a diverse, satisfying meal that was arguably pretty healthy, too. Certainly, if I'm visiting a national chain at lunch, I'll feel less guilty on every count if I head to Pokeworks than if I dig into the competition.

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