A Poke Noke employee prepares a custom-made food bowl. The customer can choose from from ingredients such as cucumber, seaweed salad, carrots and edamame.

Focus on poke: OK or No-Ke? Order the fish bowls once for Instagram; then head to Chipotle

Jacqueline Chao
A Poke Noke employee prepares a custom-made food bowl. The customer can choose from from ingredients such as cucumber, seaweed salad, carrots and edamame.

The second syllable is pronounced “KAY,” not “Key”! Now that we have that out of the way, we can move on to the main course.

Poke, a Hawaiian raw fish salad, is traditionally served as an appetizer. But recently it has become the star of the meal. 

Following the likes of Chipotle and Blaze Pizza, poke restaurants have popped up with the same “assemble it your way” business philosophy. 

And in the last year, poke places have been appearing left and right. The poke fad was picking up steam, but before I could hop on the bandwagon blindly, I had to try it for myself.

So I recruited my two brothers, senior Bryce and former student J.T., and senior Nina Dym to investigate this new trend in the food world.

Our first destination was Poke Noke (2254 Fair Oaks Blvd.). 

After looking over the list of signature bowls and create-your-own options, we decided to create our own. But since we weren’t certain of our ability to concoct a masterpiece, we also opted for a signature Miyagi bowl.

Prices start at $12 for a small bowl and $15 for a large but can increase depending on if you want additional protein, ranging from tofu to prawns to octopus.

We began with the Miyagi bowl but immediately faced a problem.

“How do I eat this?” I asked my comrades. 

“It’s like a burrito bowl, where you have to get every component in your mouth,” Nina replied.

The only problem was each topping was delicately placed on top of or next to the other.

“I don’t even know where everything is,” I replied as I maneuvered through the Miyagi bowl.

But you can make only one first impression, and I wasn’t going to give poke the short end of the stick. So after sampling my first bite, I had three words.

“This is fire!”

Photo by Nina Dym
A Poke Noke bowl.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. After all it was only a fish bowl.

The Miyagi bowl took simple ingredients, such as rice, cucumber and seaweed, and mixed them with ahi tuna, scallops and avocado to create a staggering quantity of flavor.

The diversity of flavors surprised me too. Because each ingredient was “hidden” under the next, every bite was different.

Next we moved on to our “create-your-own” bowl.

We asked for so many ingredients that by the time we sat down, I had forgotten what we put in it. 

Despite disliking poke, J.T. gave it a try because “it looked good.” But apparently looks aren’t everything.

“I wasn’t a fan of poke before this, and I am still not a fan now,” J.T. said.

But his sentiment wasn’t shared by everyone.

“You can’t really go wrong with it,” Nina said. “We built it ourselves, so we like everything on it.”

But there were so many different flavors, it almost felt overwhelming.

It’s hard to enjoy all the flavors your brain imagined while piecing together your bowl just minutes before. 

As we continued poking at our poke, we noticed multiple people walking over to Pearls Boba next door to grab a drink to go along with their fish bowl.

Because both restaurants are influenced by Asian culture and cuisine, I was not surprised to see that most patrons were Asian (including the four of us, who are all part Japanese).

Since we were already bandwagoning the poke trend, we picked up some milk tea before taking off to our next location.

After almost a half-hour drive, we landed at our second destination, Fishology Poke Bar (2784 E Bidwell St.). 

“Your destination is on your right,” the GPS exclaimed.

Hm, that’s weird because it wasn’t.

“I think that’s it,” J.T. said pointing at a sign that read, “DENTIST.”

And he wasn’t wrong. Fishology was right next to a dentist. 

Their sign was not only overshadowed by a huge “DENTIST” sign, but the font was impossible to read. All four of us were looking directly at Fishology and still were unaware that that was where we were heading.

After making our way inside, we grabbed a menu to take a look at their signature bowls. 

But wait, there were no signature bowls. So if you plan on making a trip to Fishology, you better bring your imagination.

Jake Longoria
A Fishology bowl.

No big deal. We had done it once; we could do it again. Plus the menu was nearly identical except for the toppings.

However, as we began ordering, we ran into a bit of a roadblock.

“Sorry, we are out of wonton chips,” the nice lady behind the counter responded.

What? How? Are you serious?

Anyone who has ordered poke, either as an appetizer or as a bowl, knows that it is almost always served with a side of wonton chips. 

This would be like going to McDonald’s and discovering they’re out of fries. 

Whatever, Jake, it’s not the end of the world. 

We moved on and began looking at the extensive list of toppings. With quail eggs and three different types of “masago” (fish eggs), you can create whatever your mind imagines. 

Although we took a hard pass on the eggs, we were willing to go as far as to add mango. 

But we had to go just a bit farther to eat.

Despite it being over 100 degrees, we were forced to sit outside on metal chairs due to the small dining space and limited seating indoors.

Nevertheless, we dug into our bowl before the heat swallowed us. 

“I like the mango,” Nina said. “It definitely combines well with ‘wakame’ (seaweed) and the tuna.”

“But the rest of the bowl falls flat,” Bryce added.

I couldn’t agree more. Despite the bowl being nearly identical to our previous, it just didn’t have the same amount of flavor, which made no sense.

I really want to give Fishology two thumbs down, but the sun melted off my second thumb. 

“So, Jake, Poke Noke is the clear favorite and you’d go back again, right?”

Yes and no. If you are going to get poke, take the short and easy trip from school to Poke Noke. 

But, honestly, I say no to poke in general. Maybe it’s worth one visit. Create your most visually appealing bowl possible and secure yourself a nice Instagram picture.

But it’s not worth it as a main course. At the end of the meal, you’ll be kicking yourself. You just paid $15 for a bowl of raw fish and rice. Get a burrito from Chipotle for half the price.

—By Jake Longoria

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