Have you ever had that thing happen where you don’t even know a thing is a thing, but then you find out it’s a thing and all of a sudden that thing seems to crop up everywhere? Before last week I had no idea what a fidget spinner was, but once I found out, they started coming out of the woodwork at me. Suddenly I was seeing newspaper articles about this alleged trend, with stores reporting that they couldn’t keep them in stock. Amazon told me it wanted to sell me one. I even saw people idly flicking them at the bus stop.
And so it is with poke bowls (that’s pronounced po-keh, with bowl pronounced the usual way). One minute I didn’t know they existed, the next I was reading about them in the Globe and Mail. Then, as though on schedule, I found out not one but two new poke restaurant in downtown Edmonton would let me try this emerging phenomenon my own damn self. Ono Poke on 104 Street, however, will have to wait its turn.
The poke bowl is apparently a Hawaiian delicacy that combines a myriad of sushi flavours with a few tropical flourishes. It’s delightfully devoid of spam, which is apparently another thing Hawaiians like to eat.
Splash Poke, which opened in a shiny nook just south of Jasper Avenue on 109 Street, boasts four variants on the poke bowl to get you acquainted with the style. The austere space facilitates a certain amount of dining in but looks custom-made to cater to a brisk take-out biz.
And I do mean brisk. I popped in after the lunch rush on a Friday and probably didn’t spend five minutes ordering, paying for and sitting down with my food—once the young person behind the glass divider helped me decide which of four possible poke bowls to order.
The thing to order, according to her, was “the works” with two scoops of protein ($13.95), because why not have everything. Almost one of everything appears to be present: my choice of white or brown rice, vermicelli or salad with sashimi-grade salmon and tuna, shoyu sauce (a Japanese soy sauce variant), splash aioli (whatever that is), sriracha aioli, sweet onions, green onions, crispy onions, cucumber, cilantro, seaweed, pickled jalapenos, seaweed salad, crab mix, tobiko, pineapple, mango, corn, crispy garlic, panko, nori and sesame seeds. It was curated from the sprawling ingredient bar in a flash, crisscrossed with the promised aiolis (white and reddish), and strewn with sesame seeds (white and black).
Sometimes too many ingredients can be overwhelming, but that was not the case here. Every ingredient seemed to go with every other ingredient, but every bite was a little bit different, with a generous helping of fresh, buttery raw salmon and tuna chunks to anchor the onslaught of flavours and textures bound up in rice and mayo. All of it was delicious, the tropical fruits playing against the vinegary sting of pickled jalapenos, sudden bursts of fried garlic, sweet corn and cilantro, pockets of al dente seaweed salad and crunchy panko crumbs—it was like two or three of my favourite kinds of maki muddled in a bowl.
Though much lighter than a donair or fast food combo meal, it was completely satisfying, which is nice when you spend $15 on lunch instead of packing something at home.
10079–109 St., 780.760.4660