I know, it's kind of rough doing a post on one of these fast-casual poke concept places right after doing one on the great, inexpensive seafood on rice in Hokkaido. But that's the breaks. I've got really mixed feelings about the recent poke boom on the mainland. On one hand, it's great that something I've eaten since "small kid time", we're talking almost half a century here, has gained general acceptance and popularity. On the other hand, much of it looks more style and hype over substance, jumping on the latest bandwagon, remember cronuts? Or maybe fro-yo? Or maybe (fill in the blanks). I'm not one who follows fads and I've always said, I'd never get poke from a place where I wouldn't eat the fish without all the sauces or what not, but there I was in front of San Diego Poke Company. Mainly because one of their regular customers from their Farmer's Market stall emailed me saying it was quite good.
I'd kind of made up my approach to trying these places on the way to this shop. Because I always like to experience the food at any eating establishment at its best, I'd never go on Sundays and Mondays (since I don't know when their fish is picked up/delivered). Because, to me, poke is traditionally ahi/aku, Ala'e/sea salt, limu, inamona, and because of my background, shoyu, and onions, though I guess these days I make it all kinds of ways, I'm going to stick with fish from the tuna family at first.
The drill here is ordering perhaps a "specialty bowl", or doing the fast-casual, have it your way thing, a base of starch plus seafood item, sauce, then any variety of toppings. Like Kirbie mentioned in her post, the world is your oyster, you can get anything from avocado to Flaming Hot Cheetos (whatever...) if you make it your own way.
Nice group of folks here, quite friendly. On my first visit, I went with the large OG SD ($11.95), which looked like a modification of shoyu poke. I thought the amount of fish used was much more generous than what I had at Poke Go back in August of last year. It also had a ton of rice.
The fish seemed to be better quality than what I had at Poke Go, though obviously not top grade. There were a couple of pieces that had quite a bit of "suji" (connective tissue) and a few pieces smelled a bit off, so I didn't eat those. The sauce was a simple shoyu - teriyaki-ish based sauce which didn't mess too much with the fish. Love onions in my poke, though this was a bit too much. The avocado added a nice creamy component to things. Way too much rice for me though, so I made note to just get a regular bowl the next time.
I like a good Poisson Cru and had two somewhat similar versions of it in Hanga Roa recently, so I thought trying the Koko Loko (regular - build your own bowl $9.95), a coconut, citrus, and sweet chili sauce base would be nice. Though when I asked the guy at the counter if this was similar to Poisson Cru or 'Ota'ika, he looked at me weird and said, "no, this is koko loko...." Okay......shame on me for expecting he would actually know a bit more about something very similar. Food nerd malfunction.
The sauce was a bit too heavy in coconut for me, also a bit too sweet, and I thought it needed a bit more citrus. Cucumbers are a must for this type of poke/ceviche and I wish tomatoes were available. The fish was actually even better this time around, though I noticed that it looked like two different batches thrown together as there were some mushy pieces. For me, avocado always adds a bit of creaminess, even with the coconut based sauce, the masago adds a nice crunch as does the seaweed salad, though this "bled" all over the rice making it green. I stopped the guy after one scoop of rice in my bowl, that was enough for my carb needs.
In the end, while it wouldn't make me forget places like Ono Seafood, Tanioka's, or any number of places back home, this was better than other versions I've had in San Diego. Think of it as "Poke Chipotle", which I guess is better than "Poke Micky D's". It's worth a stop if you want something a bit more healthy and are in the area.
San Diego Poke Co 10387 Friars Rd San Diego, CA 92120 Open Daily 11am - 9pm
Sounds like some kind of amusement park, huh? Anyway, this one is courtesy of "FOY" (friend of yoso) and frequent commenter "JanFrederick", who was nice enough to send me an email about the place.
Located in Mira Mesa Mall right across from L&L.
8270 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA, 92126
And Crab Hut (Mira Mesa):
Right around the corner is the new location of Crab Hut.
Looks like they'll be ready fairly soon
8280 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA, 92126
Man, the interior of this mall looks kind of depressing.......the Mandarin Garden location stands looking quite alone......
A Quick Visit to the Market Hall:
I was in the East Village area so I did a quick visit to The Market Hall a few weeks ago; a grocery/restaurant concept that originated in Seattle.
Not much in terms of meat, seafood, or produce when I visited.
Decent, but not outstanding selection of cheeses and quite a bit of prepared food. In fact, the friendly folks kept asking me if I'd like to try something.
The place was rather empty, except for the coffee bar which was doing some nice business. and while I really don't see anything that compels me to return.....I get most of what I need in terms of cheese/meat/wine/beer/seafood closer to home, I think this is great for folks who live in the East Village!
The Market Hall 969 Market St San Diego, CA 92101 Hours: Mon - Fri 7am - 10pm Sat - Sun 9am - 10pm
There seems to be a little revolution going on in LA and the OC.....poke, something I've eaten....well, being born and raised in Hawaii, basically all of my life has really gained a foot hold. Places like Poke District, North Shore Poke Company, Pokinometry, and of course Costco and Whole Foods, plus erstwhile food bloggers like Elmomonster, means that it's getting full coverage in the OC. It was only a matter of time until a shop specializing in poke opened here.......so, I wasn't surprised to read about one opening in Eater...though I'm not sure Hillcrest is the best location for it. Still, I was intrigued, so I headed up to Hillcrest to try out Poke Go.
Upon entering and seeing the owner; well, I cracked up. It was the guy who used to own Convoy Sushi and Fish Market, Moby Dick Fish Market & Grill, Ocean Harvest Seafood, etc....etc.... He does love creating new restaurants. The "concept" as he calls it, is quite simple, poke "bowls", called "platters" here, Korean influenced rice based dishes, as a quick stop is the objective. Select your fish, Ahi or Salmon (have you ever seen me eat salmon poke?), Rice (White or Brown) or Salad, and then your "spice" (aka da' sauce or seasoning), finally a "side" completes your "platter".
Of course, I went with the "Shoyu Hawaiian" style Ahi on White Rice with Mac (here called Tartar Macaroni) Salad. The menu price for this is $8.99, but during the grand opening period it's $7.99. So here's what I got.....
The first thought that entered my mind when I opened the cardboard carton was "wea's da fish"? This looked like a glorified seaweed salad with a few cubes of fish in it. There seemed to be maybe two ounces of fish in this thing. For the price, I didn't expect anything near, say what I make at home, or even what I make for the Missus. But it was decent, if not great quality fish. What I managed to pull out of the seaweed salad was on the bland side, nowhere near what anything in the islands is like. The sesame oil flavor permeated everything.
The "Tartar Macaroni" was terribly dry and not dressed enough as well.
I did return and to try the version with Kimchi sauce....."extra spicy" they said.
I will say that there was much more fish in this one. Plus, I really enjoyed (gasp) the brown rice; nice and nutty and it went well with the furikake. The fish was on the dry side and fairly bland as before; not too much "suji" (connective tissue), but still kind of chewy. It wasn't very spicy at all. There was kimchi at the bottom of the fish.....which looked like a lot; but one bite in and it was quite apparent that this was perhaps just a bit more than what I had previously.
I will say that the portion of "Kanikama" (surimi) was quite large, but I'd have appreciated a bit more effort in flavoring. I got full on that alone.
So here's what I think. If you don't mind getting full on rice, salad, and seaweed salad, with a few ounces of fish...then this will work for you. I'd gladly take it in place of a fastfood lunch. While this stuff would never fly back home. I've definitively had worse here in San Diego.
As to whether it's Poke "no" or Poke Go....well, you'll have to make up your mind yourself.
Then other news came trickling in....the kitchen was going to be run by the original chef of Common Theory. 'Nuff said. So I held off on coming for a bit, but finally decided to give it a go a couple of weeks back.
It was a Sunday and the bar was full and the really nice patio area was half full....and there was one poor guy running the bar and the dining area, a really nice guy named Danny.....I felt for him.
The beer selection was a bit limited, but had 2-3 items I was ok with. I went with a Port Brewing Shark Attack Red Ale, then turned it down when my food arrived.
The menu seemed a bit pricey, but it's hard to make that determination when you haven't tried anything, so I went full steam ahead. And of course, being from Hawaii, I love my poke, so I thought it would be a good place to start ($9.50). I think for most, this would be ok. Me, well, I'm not a big fan of saku fish....that boned, skinned, pre-cut, vacuum packed, and frozen stuff has a texture I don't enjoy.
I would have appreciated a bit more shoyu and less sesame oil. And I thought the "wasabi pesto" needed more wasabi.
I went with the Garlic Parmesan Wings, which was basically simply fried wings with a dollop of a garlic-cheese paste on them.
Man, that was a not so great first visit. Still, I decided to visit again. This time I saw the sign for $1 off draft beer during "Happy Hour" - 4-6pm. It's nothing like, say, Iron Pig's half price happy hour. It was also kind of a bummer when I was told that Sculpin and the Shark Attack Red were excluded from happy hour pricing.....it's only a dollar, but really......
This time around I asked for a recommendation with regards to one of my dishes. Queried about my tolerance for "heat", the Habanero Calamari ($8.50) was recommended.
And this was probably the best item I had at Coastal Crave; tender, nice spice, cooled by a decent aioli. It was on the greasy side....but this is pub grub, right?
I also decided to try the Bone Marrow ($15).
This seemed a bit over-priced and the marrow looked really black. It wasn't too bad, but in spite of the color, there were quite a bit of red, under done parts. This actually made the Wagyu Bone Marrow at Copper Onion seem amazing.
Pretty uneven, almost like the place is over-reaching a bit. I'm glad that it seems the neighborhood folks are coming out and supporting the place, but I wish the food was a bit better and the beer selection more interesting....though I saw most people drinking Bud Light, Corona, and Shock Top......
As you can tell. I was ready to call it quits....but for some reason, I decided on one more try. I saw a nice looking sandwich go out on my previous visit, so I thought I'd order it; the Duck Melt ($13).
I really enjoyed the melted Havarti cheese, slightly milky, creamy, it really added to the sandwich. I thought the duck confit needed a bit more flavor, and the whole thing was super rich. I wish the pickles were a bit more assertive; it would have been just enough acid to cut the richness. The habanero aioli actually detracted from the overall flavor and seemed out of place. Also, the bread had been griddled a bit too long and some of the areas were bitter. The fries were nice and for some reason....maybe the acid component, the ketchup tasted really good.
The folks here seem very nice, though the service can be a bit slow.
I'm glad that places like this are opening in the neighborhood. Like I said about Luce's, I'm not the kind of guy who is just "happy to have xxxx in the neighborhood". And while the menu seems "interesting" (extra " " on this) with stuff like "Gator Cakes" on it. I'm just going to have a burger next time. I'll probably be better off. I hope.....
Coastal Crave 3065 Clairemont Dr San Diego, CA 92117
Funny, the Missus says that my demeanor changes as soon as I get off that plane and the island humidity hits me. Something happens. I'm able to fall right back into my "old self", relaxed, laid back...and then the pidgin starts!
Of course, the next thing we're looking for is poke. Like I've mentioned before, I'm a "townie"....to me there's only one decent place to get poke in the Waipahu/Ewa Beach area and that would be a place i've posted on several times before....
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering:
We always visit a couple of times.......
Much has changed over the years....the question used to be, "limu or shoyu?"
Nowadays, it runs the gamut....
Not the prettiest presentation....Styrofoam and sauce "all ova' da' place."
But it hits the spot.
Tanioka's Seafood and Catering 94-903 Farrington Hwy Waipahu, HI 96797
We also hit a place around my old neighborhood. Usually it's Ono Seafood, but the Missus wanted some smoked marlin, so here's another I've posted on before.
Man, I remember when this was Pizza Hut!
We actually prefer the smoked seafood and stuffs like taegu tako to the poke here.....
Just a couple of quick things to get us over "Hump day".
Poke at Costco Mission Valley:
I've seen them in Costco's back home in Hawaii, but never in San Diego, until a recent visit to Costco in Mission Valley. Of course, other than gas, I really don't get to Costco that often. It just so happened that I needed enough toilet paper to last until the next millennium.
It looked to be part of the Seafood Fair. Did I buy any? Well, no....heck I don't even buy the stuff they sell in Costco in Hawaii. I did ask the guy if the fish was "gassed", that is, treated with carbon monoxide. They guy looked at me strangely and shrugged his shoulders....whatever that means.
And while you'll never catch me eating this stuff....though I've been known to have brown rice on occasion to please the Missus (don't get the Brown Rice Shio Koji Chicken...it's a double whammy), I thought it kind of neat that Nijiya is really working on keeping up with things.
I also noticed Chicken Karaage being sold with various sauces. I do enjoy chicken nanban - basically chicken seasoned with vinegar and, yep tartar sauce, though I try to get the sauce on the side when I remember to. A little goes a long way. I thought a sauce made with kurosu, a brownish vinegar made from unpolished rice might be really good on karaage. I was wrong; the sauce had been thickened too much, it was too sweet, without enough sour tones. Not my thing.
Still, it's quite interesting to visit and see new things, which seem to quite often....I usually grab a bento or something for lunch here about every other week.
Nijiya Market 3860 Convoy St Ste 109 San Diego, CA 92111
Can you guess the restaurant?
Had dinner with some good friends a while back....not my kind of place, though the portions were huge..... Much of it was dry, overcooked, tough, and seemed like it had been lying around for a while. I hadn't been here in ages and now I remembered why.
Enough to feed an army though.... Can you guess where?
Not everything makes it into a post, I've deleted many photos for posts that never got started....that Mariscos place where I got ill, that very good fine meal with no lighting....though unless we're travelling, I usually don't even break out the camera for those type of meals. And the one's I just never got around to.... I've done these "Never Made the Cut" posts before. Here's another batch.....
Recently, "Kha" sent me an email for some Hawaii recommendations, which included some requests for the North Shore.......
One of the places was Mackey's Shrimp Truck.......I sent him a photo and realized I never posted on the place.
Which made me realize that I had photos from meals during our travels that I never posted on. Too much time had passed.....
Sometimes I even had a very good meal, but the lighting was just too bad......like this revisit to The Old Fashioned.
Pickled Pork Hock...pickled egg.....
Nice burger.....and cheese curds of course....
And an adorable Server.......
But that lighting....ick......
I just plumb forgot about our revisit to Fresh Catch....
We enjoyed the poke much more this time around....
The Missus loved the really aged poi.....which was a surprise.....it was really funky.
This last one is from Tunis. It was a surprisingly decent meal......
This was pretty inexpensive as well.... in the Airport in Tunis! Airport staff and flight crew were on the other tables....so I guess this is the place!
So that's it....another Clearing Out the Memory Card post! Have a great weekend!
Man, I didn't even notice I hadn't done this post....time to catch up!
After returning from the Big Island, we had maybe a full day to get our grinds in....the Missus wanted to make the most of it and I had wanted to check out Keeaumoku Seafood, and tiny shop just mauka of Beretania Street. Oh....yes, in case you didn't know, we never used East-West-North-South while I was growing up, in fact, I was kind of confused with those directions when I first started working, then living on the mainland. Back "home" we use "mauka", toward the mountains, or "makai" towards the ocean.
Anyway, the shop it a tiny one with barely a handful of parking spaces right in front of it. Funny, I still remember when Nippon Theatre was across the street from here....man am I getting old!
Anyway...we wen' score one of the spaces right in front of the place.
From the cold case, it seems that this place makes poke in small batches, which is not a bad thing. The poke did look a bit dried out as well, but we weren't here for poke. There was a rather stern mannered Korean woman working and a very sweet young lady who was Filipino. She really did a nice job putting together our plate.
I'd really come here for one thing.......this:
No...it's not the brown rice, ok? The Missus did insist on that to counter-act the rich and wonderful fried Ahi Belly. Man was this good! A slight resistance before melting away in your mouth. This being Ahi, not Aku, the flavor wasn't too strong for the Missus.
You also get an order of poke with the Ahi Belly. I chose the sesame oil poke, which was coated with masago. sadly, it wasn't very good. The fish was tough and this was strangely lacking in flavor.
The Missus really wanted to balance out the scales and we ended up going to Whole Foods in Kahala, where She built a massive salad. We had our meal at one of the tables right outside the market.
Man, we're still talking about that Ahi Belly.......
Keeaumoku Seafood 1223 Keeaumoku St Honolulu, HI 96814
On our last full day on the Big Island we decided to just relax. We took a walk down Ali'i Drive then back around Kuakini Highway.
It was a quiet day, so we just drove around a bit and talked about lunch.....yes, you know us. Teshima's"old school Japanese restaurant" charm had really gotten to the Missus. So with not much else to do, we drove back up to Kealakekua and stopped by Teshima for lunch.
The Missus was craving fish so She immediately went for the "Fresh Catch" Sashimi Tray ($17.50) which was ahi.
For some reason, the Missus really enjoys the old fashioned tsukemono and sunomono. Ditto the old school miso soup.
The fish was very, very fresh, and the Missus scarfed up all twelve pieces in no time.
I went with the "Monday Special" ($12.75). Now I've read some complaints about the prices and portion sizes at Teshima.....but take a look at this for $12.75........
Five slices ahi sashimi, the teri beef was very "local" a bit chewy. The fried fish here is quite good as well.
The makizushi and inari sushi take me back to "small kid" time...though combined with a chawan of rice....man, that's more carbs than I usually consume in a whole day, or two, nowadays.
The Missus got the fried fish, tsukemono, sunomono, and miso soup.
So I had an order of the famous shrimp tempura($7.25) as well.
If you like crunch, these will fill the bill. The tempura is surprisingly light and crisp.
We both thought that it tasted a bit of old oil that needed to be changed though. There seemed to be a bit of an off taste and even some greasiness to all the tempura.
So in the end a good meal, but not wow'd by the tempura.
Teshima Restaurant 79-7251 Mamalahoa Hwy Kealakekua, HI 96750
We spent the rest of the day "just cruisin' around". Went to various stores, including a couple of health food places and walked around a bit.
After a very typical afternoon nap, we went out and took another walk around......through Long's, Hilo Hattie looking for gifts for the Missus's relatives and friends.
As it was getting to late afternoon, we discovered we were still pretty full. So we thought we'd go for some poke and beer for dinner. We walked back to the KTA and the pre-packaged selection looked terrible, so we went across the street to Sack n' Save. The poke selection there was better. I eventually settled on some ahi limu with inamona and of course boiled peanuts (not pictured), which went well with the Mehana Humpback Blue, which was the best of the three we gried during this trip.
This was ok. Not the best quality fish, the ogo kind of tough and dry, but passable.
I'm not a big fan of seaweed salad, but the Missus likes it......
As evening settled we saw a good number of locals who seemed to know each other parking in the back of the King Kamehameha. It seemed like there was a big party going on. So after eating and a quick shower we headed downstairs and strolled over to Kailua Pier.
That's Ahuʻena Heiau in the foreground. I guess some company was having their Christmas Party....yes, it was that long ago.
The chatter and laughter brought smiles to our faces as we just sat and took in the wonderful Kona evening. We had a great time in the Big Island. It had been too long since we were here last. We'll be back again soon......
If you're from Hawaii, I'm sure you heard Vegas called the "Ninth Island". I'm pretty sure that ore ex-pats from Hawaii live in Vegas than the rest of the United States combined. I'm not sure what the allure is, but I do remember folks I know packing up and moving back in the 90's, drawn by the gambling and the lower cost of living. Bozo told me that Vegas gets over 250,000 visitors from Hawaii a year and you really can't help but run into them. You'll run into them every which way you turn if you stay at the "capital of the Ninth Island", the California Hotel in downtown.
It was quite a phenomenon, how Sam Boyd and the California Hotel developed such a beloved relationship with local folks. In fact even been a book written about it. Cheap flights (remember "Didi Ah Yo and away we go?") and locals love of gambling sealed the deal. I still remember my first trip to Vegas with friends....of course we stayed at the Cali. I recall getting in at night...oh, the bright lights, oh the gambling! Then I got up in the morning and pulled back the curtains and I swear, all I saw was, desert, railroad tracks, and gila monsters.
I didn't think I'd get the Missus to the Cali; there's so much else to interest Her. I could have lured Her with the oxtail soup from Market Street Cafe, but they only start serving that from 11pm. So while the Missus was occupied elsewhere, I decided to visit for old times sake. The crowd and believe me, it was pretty busy, looks a lot older nowadays. But Market Street Cafe is still going strong with folks waiting in line at 915 in the morning.
It was nice wandering around a bit.....great memories of those really cheap junkets we used to take. I've had many a meal at Aloha Specialties which wasn't open yet on this morning.
I don't really gamble anymore....the Missus gets major chest pains watching me lose perfectly good money which could have gone to Her next pair of Christian Louboutins. But I thought I'd part with a twenty for old times sake at the slots. Two pulls later I was up over $550! You always get the better odds at these type of places. I played it down to $500 and cashed out quickly. The folks working here have always been very friendly....probably because of the Hawaii connection.
I took a quick walk down Fremont Street, which looked really depressed......
Then it was time to hele......
I headed back up to Spring Mountain Road. I thought I'd treat myself to two medium size lunches, the first was to grab some poke at Hawaiian Style Poke.
Now the thought of eating fish in the middle of Nevada might seem a bit odd to you, but with all the transplanted locals....well, I was curious. I initially thought of hitting up the popular Poke Express, but Bozo told me that this little, fairly hard to find shop near the corner of Wynn and Spring Mountain Roads was the way to go....so I did.
The shop is tiny, with a fish counter and trays of small batches of fish. There are different "seasonings" on the fish, but it looks like they pour on the same shoyu based "sauce" on everything. Fair enough, as the fish looked pretty fresh. I drove across the street to the plaza that holds 99 Ranch Market and had at my poke under this.....
Both the spicy garlic and shoyu poke were ok.
The spicy garlic wasn't very spicy and though there was some garlic flavor it was pretty salty from the shoyu. The shoyu poke was also on the salty side and you could tell the fish wasn't really "A" grade....though I gotta say, the prices aren't bad, $14.99 a pound if I recall. There were a couple of pieces with fibrous "sugi" and a few that were plain tough.