Poking Poke: Changing minds and changing taste buds

The Poke Co. in San Dimas offers poke bowls and wings with various seasonings. Customers can top their rice bowls with such choices as crab meat, tuna and veggies, plus sauces such as spicy mayo, sesame oil and more. / photo by Molly Garry
The Poke Co. in San Dimas offers poke bowls and wings with various seasonings. Customers can top their rice bowls with such choices as crab meat, tuna and veggies, plus sauces such as spicy mayo, sesame oil and more. / photo by Molly Garry

Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

I have an admission: I am of Native Hawaiian descent and I have never tried poke. 

Pork slow-cooked in a hole in the ground wrapped in banana leaves? Been there, done that – loved it. Poi, the goopy purple paste made from the underground plant stem of the taro plant? Yes, I have tried that too. I have even eaten Spam. 

For some reason though, this sushi-loving, Pacific ocean-swimming woman, could not muster an appetite for poke. Something about the cafeteria style serving of cubed raw fish in a fast food restaurant setting really turned me off. 

Well, today is the day. For the sake of journalistic integrity and with the spirit of adventure, all apprehension shoved aside, I will try poke. 

I wandered into The Poke Co. & Wings with an hour to spare before class. I searched the menu meticulously for an escape, but I could not bring myself to review a poke restaurant without trying the poke. 

“Hi, can I help you?” An earnest and friendly poke bowl assembler awaited my response, silver poke-scooper poised and ready. 

“Can I try a sample of the spicy-tofu?” It is just a sample, I will get to the poke I swear. I tried the tofu, a delicious substitute if, like myself you are plagued with fear of cubed raw fish.

“May I try the tako?” That is sushi-speak for octopus. I was just putting off the inevitable at this point. After my second sample of alternative proteins I was kindly informed they do not usually dish out samples of the various protein options. 

“Okay, I’ll have a poke salad please. Salmon and yellowtail, throw in whatever else you’d recommend. Please and thank you.” 

The poke aficionado on the opposite side of the counter filled my bowl with lettuce, cucumbers, onions, both raw and fried, green onion, edamame, a dried seaweed seasoning blend called furikake and three delicious sauces – spicy mayo, soy sauce and Hawaiian island, which is a creamy bell pepper sauce with a kick of habanero.

Any size poke bowl comes with six wings for an extra five dollars if you choose, so I ordered those as well, mango habanero flavored. 

The mango habanero wings, which had three out of four flame symbols next to their name on the menu, were sweet, tangy and just slightly spicy. I expected them to pack more heat but they were relatively mild for the three symbol rating.

The poke bowl was, without a doubt and much to my surprise, quite enjoyable. The Poke Co. & Wings proved my preconceived poke notions wrong. There was no potent fishy smell or taste like I had been dreading and the texture was not slimy or strange. 

In fact, the poke bowl salad had a very fresh taste with interesting flavors that interacted well with one another. The creamy textures of the spicy mayo and Hawaiian island sauce balanced with the potent and salty soy created a unique dressing for my salad that had various textures of crispy, crunchy and soft. 

The poke was delicious, seasoned and sauced to my liking. My grimace transformed into a grin, my bowl from full to empty. 

The Poke Co. & Wings, located at 1046 W Gladstone St. in San Dimas, is about four miles west of the University of La Verne campus. Visit The Poke Co. & Wings soon to have your own world-altering, bias-bashing poke experience. 

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at emily.sullivan@laverne.edu.

Emily J. Sullivan
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