A few weeks ago; I was in National City and decided to check out what was going on with Point Point Joint. When I drove into the parking lot I was shocked to see PPJ was gone! Wow, first Conching's and now Point Point Joint! I guess I really don't get down here near enough these days. The other thing I was surprised to see; though I probably shouldn't have been, was a place name Poke Etc had taken PPJ's place.
I was just going to get into my car and as we say back home; "hele" to somewhere else. But I decided to take a peek inside; which was kind of interesting. The lay-out seemed very much PPJ; in spite of the freshening up, it still looked a bit worn.
I really wasn't interested in the poke....more interested in the "etc".....stuff like Shoyu Chicken, Lau Lau, Kalua Pork, Teriyaki Chicken....I'm not sure when I last had Ilocano Longanisa. My friends growing up were Ilocano, so I was kind of used to the vinegary; garlicky longanisa. The first time I had Longsilog in San Diego I was rather shocked at how sweet it was. But over the years I've come to enjoy it.
There a collection of "stuffs", an almost random collection most of which you can get from Marukai, and a reach in fridge with Hawaiian Sun, haupia, mac salad, Portuguese sausage (sorry not "my" brand")...you know, etc....
I'd had enough "Mainland poke" for a while so just went with the Lau Lau Combo ($9.95)......not really expecting much.
You know; the lau lau wasn't bad....I mean, it wasn't "really" lau lau if you know what I mean; it was missing the very important salted butterfish, which adds an awesome salty-savory touch to lau lau and is all important. The difference between this and what I typically get here on the mainland is; and it pretty much holds true for most frozen lau lau, is that it was moist, not too salty, it had quite a bit of luau leaf, but I love the steamed taro leaves, which have a smoky, flavor. Again, not really lau lau, but the pork shoulder was moist, tender, and not too stringy. What really put a damper on things is the lack of "chili pepper water"....bummer. The rice was on the dry side foe my taste; especially when eating local kine food.....
I hadn't read the menu very closely; instead of the usual mac salad, this came with a scoop of poke. Oh-oh....... There's basically 8 different poke, already made; over ice, just like home. I'm a purist, so I decided on the Ahi Limu and was pleasantly surprised.
First off, the fish was decent quality; think basically Safeway or Foodland on Oahu. The limu was actually the fine Limu Kohu.......not the hard branches. Some not so great pieces, but mixed and coated evenly, not too salty; a bit of shoyu; this wasn't bad at all.
So I returned and decided to see how the loco moco ($8.95) was. I should have probably just gone with maybe some poke and rice.....
Doesn't the loco moco look like some Edvard Munch inspired, food emoji basically saying "don't eat me"?
This wasn't good eats, from the very gluey, tasteless gravy; which had the same viscosity as the egg yolk. They just kind of oozed into one another. To the burger which was pretty darn tough, to the rice which was again on the dry side. I just didn't care for this.
So, I decided to come in and just get a poke bowl......I got the "Create your own bowl" which was reasonably priced at $8.95. Of course I hot the Ahi Limu and this time added the Kimchi Poke.
On this day the Ahi Limu wasn't right; the fish wasn't coated well, there were too many pieces with tough connective tissue; and in spite of the Limu Kohu, this seemed off. The fish in the Kimchi Poke was slightly better, but not by much. Not a big fan of the flavors which was more salty than spicy. It just wasn't very interesting. To make matters worse, the rice was even more dry than before.
I mean, it's ok to have some pieces with "sugi" in them; but not so many......
Poke Etc was starting to be a bit of enigma; I just couldn't put my finger on what this place did consistently well. I decided to pay one more visit. I was going to order the Shoyu Chicken; but it didn't come with poke and I wanted to give that one more shot. So I decided on the Island Bento ($11.95) to go. The menu states Teriyaki Chicken, Tonkatsu, and Poke. This is what I got.
I have no idea what this was supposed to be, but I don't think it's what I ordered. That tonkatsu was pounded very thin, breaded, then fried to a dry, stringy place that can only be described as death. What's up with the bland sautéed onions and the frozen peas and carrots? Kind of sad because the Ginger Ahi was nicely flavored, not too much ginger, good soy, not too salty, the fish was nicely mixed and coated well, and there were only a few pieces with too much connective tissue. I'd easily have that again.
After this....four visits in the can; I decided that I need to give the place a rest. I'm still not quite sure if they can put out a consistent product; though I do like the "old school" style poke....when it's on. If one of those "Chi-Poke" places (i.e. San Diego Poke Company, etc....) could get it right, it would be great. The woman who works here is really nice and friendly....and heck, I saw boiled peanuts for sale; I need to bring my own chili pepper water though, and there's still that Ilocano Longanisa I have to try one of these days........one of these days.
Interesting to note that Poke Etc is a chain of (currently) four shops, two in Long Beach and one in Carson. I'm sure we'll see more pop-up here in San Diego.
916 E 8th St
National City, CA 91950