These five brand-new poke stops are all serving Toronto’s trendiest dish
Poke–Hawaii’s raw, marinated fish salad that’s so popular on the state’s islands it’s even served in its gas stations–took Toronto by storm this summer, with at least five poke (pronounced poh-keh) purveyors landing across the city in just the past three months. That’s a lot of ahi. But why now? We asked the owners to tell us how 2016 came to be the year of the Polynesian fish dish.
Big Tuna Poké Bar
Big Tuna Poké Bar is Toronto’s O.G. poke restaurant, having opened way back in June. Customize your own bowl, or choose from the house creations like the punnily named Big Katuna, with ahi tuna, sweet onions, macadamia nuts and lotus chips, tossed with sesame oil, green onions and citrus-y ponzu sauce.
Anh Tran, owner: “I think it’s just the times, you know? People want to switch to something healthier. Some of my cook friends made poke for me and I thought it was awesome. So when I decided to take the leap and open my own place, poke made sense since Toronto already has everything else—there’s like 20 bánh mì places. We make authentic Hawaiian poke as well as fusion dishes. We’re doing this Mexican-Japanese dish that’s like an awesome poke ceviche.”
599 Bloor St. W., @bigtunapokebar
MENU SNEAKPEEK 👀: PG's Bowl Our mouthwatering signature bowl made with white rice/ fresh salmon in classic shoyu sauce/ masago/ edamame/avocado/ fried onion/ pickled ginger + your pick on some (or All) of our other toppings! Revealing our other signature bowls and premium toppings over the week. Be sure to think about your Poke Guys this week! 🙈🙈🙈 . . . . . #pokeguysto #pokebowl #torontoeats #foodTO #igfood #hawaiianTO #eattoronto #tastetoronto #torontofoodies #chewthis #toronto_insta #cravethe6ix #toronto_restaurants #blogtolicious #lovetoronto #6ix #foodporn #eatclean
Catering to lunching lawyers and OCAD students, Poke Guys lets customers build their own poke bowls or choose from a selection of signature bowls that put a distinctly multicultural spin on the fish dish. The PG’s Bowl tosses salmon with soy sauce, edamame, kimchi, corn, fried onions, a heaping dollop of masago roe and a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds.
Johnny Chan, co-owner: “Toronto is like a little brother to the States. Poke originated in Hawaii before taking off in Cali, San Fran and Vegas, and now it’s here. In Hawaii, people just buy a tub of seafood and eat it. At Poke Guys, we’re adding toppings to it but we do marinate our seafood a couple hours in advance, which makes the flavours more intense. ”
112 Elizabeth St. Unit #1, pokeguys.ca
Happy Labour day weekend! @pokitocanada is here to serve you our fresh poke bowls and burritos at 420 Queen St. West you til 10pm tonight 🎶🐟. — . . #pokito #toronto #pokebowl #spicygochusalmon #pokebowls #bestpokeever #pokitocanada #tuna #comingsoon #ilovepoke #foodporn #torontopoke #fresheats #foodpornto #tastethesix #eatfamous #blogto #torontolife #pokebowls #instafood #instaeat #gastropost #nomnomnom #pokito #tastetoronto #torontoeats #foodto #queenwest #foodjourney #nowtoronto
The folks behind Me.n.u. Food Truck, Chatime and Bake Code have combined forces to open Pokito. This Queen West newcomer specializes in poke bowls and burritos (think giant maki rolls stuffed with marinated fish and out-of-the-bento-box toppings like mandarin orange supremes and Hawaiian guacamole).
Roxanne Tsui, co-owner: “It’s easy for Torontonians to conceptualize poke. We’re familiar with how sushi works and how create-you-own salad bowls work, and this abides by the same principles. Plus, there’s a health angle to it, and it all works together really well. Our menu is inspired by our travels around the world: We incorporate Thai flavours like lemongrass, Trinidadian pineapple chow and Indonesian acar, which are pickled cucumbers.”
420 Queen St. W., pokito.ca
There’s often a 20-person lineup at Rolltation during the lunch rush. Although their sushi burritos are the best sellers, their poke bowl sales are climbing by the week.
Mingyu Xie, co-owner: “It’s the right time and it’s the right trend. People want grab-and-go food that’s just not burgers and hot dogs. The younger generation wants a healthier option, but one that can be eaten on the go. When we implemented the sushi burrito and poke bowl concept, we didn’t even realize anyone else was doing it in Toronto. I think it’s good that we’re not the only poke place, though; it means the demand is there. We also like that you can mix-and-match different flavours. It’s very Toronto to be able combine different foods and cultures together.”
207 Dundas St. W., rolltation.com
Sneak peak at our new menu item! We're bringing Hawaii to you. Big shout out to chef @jun0k for helping us develop this beautiful bowl. His passion for food definitely shows in his work. The creaminess of the albacore tuna pairs up amazingly with our citrus based dressing making this dish loaded with flavor, depth, and texture. 😍 #comingsoon
Tucked in the heart of Kensington, North Poké promises to serve some of the most authentic Hawaiian poke in Toronto when its bricks-and-mortar location opens this fall. In the meantime, the shop has been serving its wares through Foodora.
Linda Dang, owner: “I was introduced to poke while vacationing in Hawaii a few years ago. Since then, poke’s been a passion of mine. When I saw poke explode in California, I knew it had real potential here in Toronto. It’s easy to do, which is why people are jumping on it, but also easy to mess up. You need to get the marination process just right, and the fish needs to sit for at least a few hours. A lot of the other poke places put the sauces on at the last minute, so the fish barely absorbs the flavour.”
Coming soon to 179 Baldwin St., northpoke.com