A Feast for the Senses 8

The Poki Bowls Over Brentwood

Satisfyingly full, but still comfortably light—that’s the sensation of walking out the door beneath the blue pufferfish that serves as the mascot for The Poki, the new restaurant in town serving up hyper-fresh, artisan-crafted poke bowls. Opening this past October, word of mouth for this friends-and-family-run establishment has spread quickly, filling the clean and cozy space with customers as fast as the friendly staff can fill up their bowls with deeply delectable poke, all customized to each patron’s preferences.  

For those new to this dish, modern poke is a fusion of Hawaiian and Japanese culinary traditions with a bit of nouvelle cuisine thrown in for that extra artistic flair. The word “poke” itself means “cut into chunks” in Hawaiian—referring to the dish’s origins with cubes of raw fish—and is pronounced with two syllables, poh-KAY. Think sushi, but unwrapped and served in a bowl with added flavors from sauces and textures and oils. The result is a healthy, filling and nutritious dining experience that punches far above its calorie count when it comes to landing fantastic tastes on the tongue.  

The Poki’s patrons are active participants in their own bowl game, directing at the bar what star attractions go into the bowl to make up their marvelous meal. With six steps to the process, each with several choices, there are literally hundreds of possible poke combinations. But don’t let the expansive range of choices intimidate you. With The Poki creating its own unique sauces and sourcing only the finest, sushi-grade fish and the freshest ingredients, it is impossible to build a bad bowl. Let’s take a tour through the process.

After selecting your portion size—a regular bowl with 3 ounces of protein or a large with 5 ounces—choose your base: the white rice, the brown rice or, for those on the keto diet, the spring mix of greens. Next comes the protein. Would you like the fresh tuna from Japan or the fresh salmon from Scotland? Perhaps you would prefer the tender chunks of tofu or the perfectly seasoned sous vide chicken? You can’t go wrong, but you do need to choose because now it’s time to get your mix into the mix. Edamame or mango, carrots or cucumbers, tobiko or candy-striped beets—the list goes on, and the possibilities pile up. Now, to make your palate’s bell go “ding,” pick your favorite sauce: sweet, savory, citrusy, spicy—your call. Not only that, but The Poki blends its own, even selling its sauces separately in 12-ounce bottles. Once the sauce is selected, it’s time to put some crunch in your munch with some terrific textures, crispy garlic or shallots, toasted sesame or traditional Japanese furikake, puff rice or ito togarashi (a flavorful and colorful Korean chili.) The last step is a few drops of aroma-rich oil such as sesame or extra-virgin olive oil, just enough to invite your nose to the feast as well.  

And don’t worry if all that choice is too overwhelming. At The Poki, you can simply let the experts build your bowl for you.  Just order directly off the menu, saying merely “Gangnam Spicy Tuna, please” and watch as your bowl fills with chunks of tuna along with the likes of crispy garlic, breakfast radish, fresh green onion and a bit of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste.) Or say “Smoki Poki, please” and into your bowl goes The Poki’s poke take on Nashville hot chicken theme. There’s even a vegan option. Just say “The Veganism, please” and watch the magic happen.

Regardless of what you choose, The Poki will serve you a healthy and delicious meal for a great value. There’s even a stamp program that allows repeat customers to get a free bowl after accruing 10 purchases.  

“When you leave here,” says operations manager Shareese Spears, “you don’t feel bogged down or in need of a nap. You’re refreshed and refueled, ready for another round of work at the office after lunch or an evening out on the town after dinner.”

The Poki is located at 119 Franklin Road in Brentwood and will soon open a second location off Charlotte Pike.