Even though our trip was a mere ten days, we made sure to get in as much Poke as possible. The Missus, who by now is a full fledged poke-phile and I would often discuss the merits of the poke we ate during our trip. We tried five different shops during our stay and here's the consensus, in reverse order of our favorites. I think our favorite will be a bit of a surprise.
#5 - Poke Stop
On our previous trip I had the pleasure of chatting with a former coworker of my MIL and lifetime Leeward resident Melissa, whom I also had a great time sharing dinner with on her subsequent trip to San Diego. It was really great getting her feedback on a number of places in the Ewa/Waipahu area.Poke Stop was one of the really hyped up places, but Melissa told me that the poke was very salty and perhaps not her favorite, so we passed. On this visit, the Missus and I stopped by the little shop for a light lunch. We enjoyed the "trio" of cooked items which I'll post on later, but unfortunately, the poke here was our least favorite, that's not to say it was bad, but someone had to be numba five. The shop is rather small and the choices rather limited, some of which looked like it had been sitting around for a while, but we ended up getting two different poke along with our plate lunch, a Primo, and headed outside to one of the tables overlooking Farrington Highway.
The two poke were totally at different ends of the spectrum.....
The Sesame Ahi Poke, really didn't look much like what I usually consider to be Ahi (Big Eye or Yellowfin Tuna) at all as it was really pale in color...it was almost like Tombo Ahi, aka Albacore.
But Tombo tends to be kinda mushy and this was firm, so I'm not sure. Overall, this was really bland and the fish, though firm didn't have the richness nor oil content to carry the poke on its own. You could barely make out a whiff of sesame oil on this.
At the other end, the Kimchi Tako Poke was super salty.
The Tako (octopus) was prepared well, chewy, but not too tough. It was just much too salty. We did like the service here; the older woman and her younger counterpart were very friendly. When we said we'd be eating at the tables outside, they told us to go ahead and have a seat and brought our food to us.
94 -050 Farrington Hwy, E4
Waipahu, HI 96797
#4 - Alicia's Market
This little market on Mokauea in Kalihi is known for sparse parking and great poke and roast pork.
I was really lucky, as I was driving up a car left one of the maybe ten stalls in front of the market (and drive in next door), talk about good luck!
This being a football Saturday the place was packed.
You get into one of the free-form pseudo lines and when you think you're next you tell one of the folks behind the counter what you want....and there's no need for long explanations like "one pound of spicy masago ahi poke" as simple "half spicy masago" will do. If you don't notice when it's your turn one of the other customers will likely let you know...after all, this is Hawaii, and "you no cut in line" here. On busy days you can just pay cash at the fish counter, bypassing the single cash register in the front. It just works better that way.
The Spicy Ahi had too much mayonnaise for the Missus and I, though my MIL enjoyed it.
This one also got on the bad side of the Missus...more on that later on.
There was a lot of "suji"(tough tendon/fishing line like tissue) in the Spicy Masago Ahi Poke. You really couldn't tell by looking at it. It seems like they used the cuts with the most tough connective tissue hiding under all that masago.
Did you notice the banner for Alicia's read "Broke the Mouth"? Well the spicy poke almost broke the Missus' teeth...twice She pulled bones from the poke. I chewed on a couple of scales in the masago poke, which made it not only too tough, but also scaly as well.
267 Mokauea St
Honolulu, HI 96819
#3 - Tanioka's Seafood and Catering
We dropped by twice....once right after getting off the plane and once I braved the Saturday line out the door and down the sidewalk. The Missus and I were looking forward to the poke from Tanioka's since our previous visit.
On both visits we were lucky as the Ahi Limu was brought out fresh both times and ended up being my favorite.
It was quite good both times, nice balance of flavor, fresh fish, everything you need.....
For some reason, I found the dried aku poke much too salty this time around.
While the Pipikaula (dried beef) Poke seemed much too tame and mild.
The main reason for the revisit is that the Missus' cousins love Ocean/Seaweed Salad, something I find kinda, well, mundane....but I was told that this stuff is really expensive in China.
They could eat this by the pound....but didn't care much for poke, or poi for that matter.
The lines were long, but moves fast. The security guard who doubles as a doorman to handle the weekend crowd is very nice as well.
Tanioka's did come up numba' one on another list, stay tuned for that post.
Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering
94-903 Farrington Hwy
Waipahu, HI 96797
#2 - Ono Seafood
This one is located in my old stomping grounds; Kapahulu. It's actually in what I believe used to be the manager's studio/office for this apartment complex, apartment numba' 4. Just look for the blue apartment.....
The poke here is a couple of dollars cheaper a pound and some of the items they make up fresh for each order. The interior is tiny. This being a two person operation means that you don't move along quite as fast.
The poke here is fresh and unfettered from too many sauces and salt.
The Missus enjoyed the Wasabi Ahi:
The fish was wonderful, bright in color and with a firmness at first bite which gave way to an almost melt in the mouth texture. I did feel that it was made a bit too much restraint with regards to the "whisper of wasabi".
I enjoyed the simple Ahi Limu, except that I found the limu to be really hard.
Other then that, I thought the flavor was really balanced.
We saved the Smoked Tako for my FIL, who loves the stuff.
If I had my druthers, I might have put Tanioka's number two since I thought eating the poke at Diamond Head Look-out affected our opinions a bit.
Still, the Missus wants to make sure to revisit Ono Seafood on our next trip.
747 Kapahulu Ave.Apt 4
Honolulu, HI 96816
#1 Lana'i Ohana Poke Market
This one was a nice surprise for us. I'd heard that there was a nice little poke shop on Gay street right off of 8th. Unfortunately we arrived on a Wednesday when it was closed. I returned the next day......
The little shop was pretty busy when I arrived....three fire fighters and probably half of the police force (two officers) were either eating or waiting for their food. The woman working the front counter was really nice. I found out that even though there's a 5pm closing time posted, they make one pan of everything a day and once that's gone it's pau hana time.
The Missus has been eating a lot of brown rice recently, and has been overjoyed to see that many Honolulu restaurant are now serving brown rice as an option. I really didn't think the brown rice movement had made it to Lana'i, but I was wrong. When I hesitantly asked the woman if they served brown rice in their poke bowls she said "of course we do". Ha....teach me a lesson.....
The Missus absolutely loved the Spicy Poke bowl with brown rice.
Not overdressed, this had a mild kick, the fish really stood out. This was Her favorite until.....
She sampled the furikake-masago ahi poke.
Put together with a restrained hand, you could make out the flavor of the furikake without it overpowering the poke. The masago added a nice crunch to everything.
Still, my favorite was the shoyu poke.
Again, the flavor didn't take over the poke. I believe there was even oyster sauce in this adding a touch of extra savory flavor. I'm not a big fan of oyster sauce in my poke since it takes over the dish, but here it was used in just the right amount. There was even a slight sweetness to the whole thing as well. The fish literally sparkled......
Much like Ono Seafood, perhaps eating our poke at lovely Hulopo'e Beach might have something to do with our enjoyment.
This was taken at about noon.........the Missus and I would joke about over-crowding when there were more then ten people on the beach.
Doesn't this look like the perfect place for one of those Corona Beer commercials?
And the view when you turn around ain't so bad either.......
We actually caught the shuttle back to Lana'i City a bit early to see if we could grab some poke to stick in the fridge for dinner. Unfortunately, they had run out of poke before we returned at two pm. You can't win them all......
Lana'i 'Ohana Poke Market
834 A Gay St
Lanai City, HI 96763
Never would I have thought that'd we'd find poke this good on Lana'i.
OK, I'm getting close to the 1700 word mark, time for bed.
Thanks for reading....I gotta go check my blood mercury levels!