Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Quick Bite: Poke It

Dining area at Poke It
For some reason this interior design makes
me crave watermelon. Can't imagine why.
These days, you can't walk down the street without accidentally stumbling into a poké joint. It takes some wild creativity to stand out from the literally dozens of raw fish shops lining the sidewalk like so many toppled electric scooters.

Poke It in Hillcrest has made an admirable effort, though. Billing themselves as "premium raw with a Mexican twist, they naturally offer the now-pedestrian poké bowl and nori-wrapped burrito. But they venture further, toying with the limits of seafood propriety: riceburgers (with crispy rice as the bun), ricetadas (crispy rice tostadas), and tacos made with fried, panko-crusted nori shells. When will the madness end?

Today I stopped by for the salmon al pastor tacos. They were a bit small, but four to an order. The most impressive thing about them, I think, was actually the shell. I expected them to be brittle, breaking apart and leaving behind a pile of taco debris. But no! Though crunchy, they had just the right amount of give so as not to break apart, aided by a bed of white rice acting as a shock absorber. These shells had an addictive, snacky texture; they really ought to be on store shelves for bingeing at home.

Will man's hubris ever be quenched?
When I ordered, my one concern was that when the menu described "cooked" adobo salmon, it really meant "overcooked." As it turned out, I was right to worry: The chunks of salmon had the grainy well-done texture that every seafood lover dreads. The adobo marinade was okay—it was pleasantly salty and savory, but the flavor profile didn't go much deeper than that.

Thankfully, the salmon texture was mostly masked by all the other ingredients: The tang of the pickled onion, the creamy guacamole to complement the shell, the sweet and spicy pineapple with a hint of cinnamon, and an herbaceous dash of oregano. The flavors sound a bit odd together, and are a bit strong on their own, but when combined they balance each other to form a cohesive whole.

I'm a sucker for innovation. These tacos were far from perfect, but there's a lot I can forgive when a restaurant is willing to try something different. While I'm not in a rush to return, eventually the call of ricetadas will be enough to draw me back in.

Score: 6.5 out of 10 (Good)

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