So during my rather unsuccessful romp through all those new "poke" places; and those are truly hard quotation marks, I really didn't have anything I truly enjoyed, anything that would make me forget places "back home". During that time, I heard Zarlitos mentioned twice. Once by a fellow Ex-Pat Kama'aina. Zarlitos? Poke? Digging a little bit I read that Zarlitos won both the San Diego and Orange County "I Love Poke Contests" in 2015. I hadn't been back to Zarlitos in almost five years, so I thought why not....perhaps there's some changes in store there.
Arriving and walking into the place, it was evident that this was still Zarlitos. The sticky tables and even more sticky menus; no poke in sight. Until I saw the small greaseboard on the pillar, with four varieties of poke written in red. From there, it was easy to order.......
The "Mini" (again, it's all relative) Crispy Pata and Shoyu Poke...pata and poke, that's music to my ears. The pata was over-fried and dry and though the skin came off in a nice little strip, much of it was hard versus crisp, more like leather than the best chicharones. It was pretty bland as well. For this, I'll stick with Villa Manila.
The garlic rice was decent; moist and the garlic wasn't burnt and bitter.
I actually sent some friends back home the photo. They thought I was back home and went to Fresh Catch. The fish was decent quality, not too much "suji", no off flavors, good texture. The flavor was perhaps a bit too sweet and I could have used a tad more saltiness; but this was by far the best poke I've had recently. It made my day.
Most of these "chi-poke" places I've been to are just a concept, somewhat high on style, low on good grindz. At Zarlitos, there's none of that. I wanted and got, decent poke. How's that for innovative?
Zarlitos Family Restaurant
505 East 8th St.
National City, CA 91950