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Fine and Raw

Thanks to a proliferation of new shops, the Bay Area is swimming in poke.


Limu & Shoyu

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Poké Bar

Photo: Monica Semergiu

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I’a Poke

Photo: Monica Semergiu

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Poke Delish

Photo: Monica Semergiu

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Poki Time

Photo: Monica Semergiu

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Maybe it’s our love of raw fish, maybe it’s our love of bowls, maybe it’s the proliferation of fast-casual concepts: Whatever the case, there is suddenly a lot of poke in the Bay Area. A Hawaiian raw fish salad tossed with a variety of seasonings, it’s swimming to the masses at the numerous make-your-own poke bars that have opened during the past year. June alone brought the debut of four such establishments, and in July, San Francisco hosted PokeCon, a weekend festival dedicated to the dish. Here, a sampling of some of the newest fish in the sea.

1. Poké Bar
Where: 1355 Market St., Ste. 100 (at 10th St., inside the Market at Twitter), 415-767-5130
The menu: Choose from six bowls ($11.50–$15), including the OG, made with tuna and green onions, and a gluten-free vegetarian bowl, all of which can be made with a base of rice, salad, or tortilla chips. Or make your own and finish it off with fresh lemon zest, sea salt, avocado, mango, or tamago.
The fish: Co-owner Chris Lim won’t reveal Poké Bar’s suppliers (citing stiff competition in the burgeoning poke scene), but he says he works with six different vendors. 

2. I’a Poke
Where: 314 Church St. (near 15th St.), 415-829-8030
The menu: I’a Poke is doubling down on the raw seafood trend: You can get your poke in a bowl or wrapped in nori as a sushi burrito ($10.95–$12.95). Newbies might try one of the suggested combinations, like the Tango, a mash-up of tuna, salmon, octopus, and shrimp topped with ponzu sauce and fresh mango. If you build your own, don’t forgo more unusual toppings like sun-dried tomato guacamole and marinated Fueru Wakame seaweed.
The fish: The salmon is farmed in Canada and Scotland, black tiger prawns come from India, and co-owner Raymond Chu heads to SFO three times a week to pick up bigeye tuna flown in from Hawaii. 

3. Poke Delish
Where: 2175 Market St. (at 15th St., inside the Myriad food hall), 415-608-2220
The menu: Tuna comes dressed in a variety of guises ($11.50–$13): Try it with a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil or with Johnny Yaki, a riff on teriyaki sauce invented by owner Danny Eng’s brother. Get it piled on a base of rice or local greens and embellished with housemade sauces like the Frisco Twist, made with miso and sriracha mayo.
The fish: Eng didn’t need to look far to find a source for great fish: The Seattle native’s Tailgate Seafood is a fixture at Bay Area farmers’ markets. For his new project, Eng sources his salmon from Norwegian farms that raise antibiotic-free fish. Seasonal specials like bigeye tuna from Hawaii are also known to appear on the menu.

4. Poki Time
Where: 549 Irving St. (near 7th Ave.), 415-702-6333, and 2101 Lombard St. (at Fillmore St.), 415-872-9446
The menu: Customers create their own bowls ($10.95–$12.95) by marking up a laminated menu and choosing from a base of white or brown rice, mixed greens or kale, six kinds of fish, and a smorgasbord of toppings including red onions and jalapeños.
The fish: Owners Quan Khuu, Brenden Lam, Khuong Luu, Tammy Nguyen, and Clarence Wong work with ABS Seafood, a San Francisco–based distributor, for fresh, wild fish like drift-net-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon and hand-line-caught yellowfin tuna from the Philippines. They even list the origin of each ingredient on those handy menus.

5. Limu & Shoyu
Where: 2815 California St. (at Divisadero St.), 415-757-0889
The menu: Choose from five signature bowls ($11–$13) or make your own, starting with rice or salad and adding tuna, octopus, arctic char, or Hodo Soy tofu. Finish it with toppings like kukui nuts, nori, and limu, the dark-red seaweed that gives the restaurant its name.
The fish: The team behind Limu & Shoyu—environmentalist Casson Trenor and chefs Kin Wai Lui and Raymond Ho—also opened the city’s first sustainable sushi restaurant, Tataki. Their commitment to responsibly sourcing applies here: There’s farmed arctic char from Washington, trap-caught Spanish octopus, and pole-caught bigeye tuna from Hawaii.


Originally published in the September issue of San Francisco

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