Sunday, October 7, 2018

Dish Spotlight: Rub My Belly at Good Time Poke

Dining area at Good Time Poke
Some places have one dish that stands out among the rest—not because the other menu items are bad, but because this one thing is so good that it feels like a betrayal to get anything else. For Good Time Poke in Pacific Beach, that dish is the Rub My Belly.

The $14 Rub My Belly bowl is probably my favorite poke in San Diego, though it arguably isn't technically poke at all. It consists of a bed of white rice topped with torched salmon belly—no shoyu marinade here—and a variety of veggies and toppings. (I always add jalapeño for some extra heat.)

Not one ingredient feels out of place in this bowl. The salmon belly is luscious: It's tender and raw on one side, the lightest of sears on the other, creating a mouthwatering contrast of textures. The nori is salty, rough and crisp, and brings with it that classic essence of the sea. The greenery of the avocado, scallions and jalapeño make the dish feel fresh and light without taking too much focus off the fish. The real chopped wasabi feels like an indulgence—it tastes brighter and sharper than the usual green-dyed horseradish. The tosazu (Japanese bonito rice vinegar) is slightly tangy mixed with a touch of soy sauce.

Rub My Belly bowl at Good Time Poke
This bowl has become a favorite in my family over the past couple of years. My dad has said more than once that it might actually be his favorite thing to eat, period. I won't go that far, but I love how any single bite is guaranteed to have a melange of three or four delicious elements that play perfectly together. The salmon, nori and vinegared rice coalesce into a symphony of flavor. Occasionally the wasabi lightly burns my nose, and I chuckle at my miscalculation in assembling the perfect bite.

The Rub My Belly feels like a San Diego summer. You could grab a bowl to go, walk three blocks to the ocean and eat it beachside under an umbrella. You could even pretend you just caught the fish yourself from the pier—it tastes fresh enough, after all. You could finish every precious morsel (feeling full yet wishing there'd been just a little more), then walk to the water and let the cold waves wash over your feet.

What am I trying to say here? Well... the best food doesn't feel like it's limited to a dining table. It feels like part of life. It brings people together. The best food makes memories.

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