Poke Me

Want a poke? We're not talking the Facebook variety but the classic Hawaiian dish

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NYC is embracing Hawaii's poke dish
The Hawaiian raw fish dish poké is popping up all over NYC. (Photos courtesy of Pokéworks)

Not since Jams—those colorful surfer shorts everyone had to have in the ‘80s—has a Hawaiian institution been so enthusiastically embraced.

In the past month—a bitter, dark month with record snowfall—two poké restaurants opened for business in Manhattan. A classic Hawaiian dish typically made with sliced raw tuna, soy sauce, green and white onions, fresh chilies, Hawaiian sea salt, and sometimes served over rice, poké is primed for fast-casual popularity.

Pokeworks serves delicious salmon and ahi poke
Mix and match your favorite fish, toppings and condiments at both Wisefish Poké and Pokéworks.

In Chelsea, Wisefish Poké is a calm sliver of white space with cheerfully industrial stools and a stripe of silvery succulents down the length of a communal wooden table. “This is the real Burger King,” a staff member on the poké assembly line for the post-Soul Cycle dinner rush said. “You can really have it your way.”

That means you can customize to your heart’s content: Build a snack ($7.95), regular ($10.95) or large ($13.95) bowl with a base of white or brown rice, zucchini noodles or mixed greens; protein in the form of ahi tuna, salmon, or tofu; then select among a dizzying array of topping and condiment options, including sea beans, seaweed salad, spicy mayo, hijiki, fresh ginger, furikake and more. If you don’t feel like DIYing it, choose from one of the creative preset options, like the fiery Heat Wave, with salmon, jalapeños and spicy-citrus shoyu.

Midtown’s Pokéworks has less West Coast salt-air style but is just as focused on high-quality ingredients, and it’s evident in the flavors. They’re so fresh, they pop like firecrackers. Customization is king here, too, in the form of regular bowls (white or brown rice, quinoa or romaine lettuce) or the burrito-inspired pokiritto wrap with seaweed and white rice. But when it comes to proteins and toppings, Pokéworks has more options, including ahi, salmon, seared albacore, sous vide shrimp, scallops, chicken and organic tofu. To the signature Ahi Classic—a bowl with ahi, green and sweet Maui onions, ogo seaweed and roasted sesame oil—choose from a bevy of add-ins including vibrant orange masago (tiny fish roe), wasabi, piquant pickled ginger, and the crunch of puffed rice or lotus chips.

At both spots, there’s a learning curve. With so many mix-ins, might one topping too many overshadow the sushi-grade fish? But not so long ago we figured out maki rolls and the optimal Chipotle combos. We got this.

Wisefish Poké
263 W 19th Street
(212) 367-7653
wisefishpoke.com

Pokéworks
63 W 37th Street
(212) 575-8881
pokeworks.com