In Hawaiian, poke means “to cut crosswise in pieces.” Here in Louisiana, though, we know the word for the traditional Hawaiian dish made of chopped raw fish coated in seasonings and marinades, and mixed with fresh veggies.
While the meal has been around for centuries in Hawaii, its start in Baton Rouge has only just begun. Last year saw an explosion of local poke restaurants, all featuring their own take on the dish. With poke shops opening up left and right, we decided it was time for a guide to the poke places in the area, and what you can expect at each one.
Southfin Southern Poké
For many of us in Baton Rouge, this was our first taste of poke. When it opened about a year and a half ago, Southfin introduced poke to the city but with its own Louisiana spin on the dish. The result? Those not into raw fish can go for crawfish. There is also a plethora of toppings like pineapple, carrots, pickled jalapeños, fried wontons and other items that are not necessarily traditional additions—but still delicious nonetheless. Southfin also offers seven sauces that add dynamic flavors to any bowl, from honey Sriracha to a citrus soy dressing. Beyond just the bowls, Southfin has expanded its menu to include tropical drinks, and mochi, a Japanese dessert.
What to expect: A lot of flavor, a lot of toppings and a lot of beverage and dessert options to choose from.
Poke Loa found success in New Orleans before opening a shop right outside LSU’s North Gates. Poke Loa prides itself on heathy living and fresh flavors, and its bowls certainly reflect that. Instead of rich sauces, Poke Loa offers light and refreshing marinades and dressings. And instead of out-there toppings, Poke Loa sticks to tradition. It also sells a variety of fresh juices, flavored waters, and even kombucha to take those healthy living vibes to the next level.
What to expect: Light and refreshing bowls, with a variety of fresh drinks to choose from.
Poke City opened at the end of 2018 on Bluebonnet Boulevard near Burbank Drive. Besides traditional poke bowls, the shop also switches things up with “poke burritos” (think the usual poke ingredients wrapped up in seaweed or soy paper). Poke City also offers coconut rice, which adds a unique flavor to any poke dish. Poke City gets a little creative with proteins, too—we’re talking shrimp tempura, grilled eel and tofu, served alongside the classic tuna and salmon.
What to expect: A bit classic, a bit unique, but a whole lotta good.
What other restaurants have poke on the menu?
It’s almost here! Finbomb Sushi, located in Arlington Marketplace on Burbank Drive, is expected to open soon, and we cannot wait. Taking a look at the restaurant’s menu, Finbomb offers poke, sushi burritos and ramen bowls. As for the poke, the toppings look fairly traditional, with a few exceptions like bell peppers, kale, roasted garlic and even guacamole.
What to expect: Perhaps the perfect place to take someone who is not 100% sure about poke. They can try a bowl and always get ramen or sushi if it’s not for them.
The modern Asian restaurant has a poke bowl on its raw bar menu. The bowl is made with sushi rice, which gives a sweet flavor in comparison to regular white rice. Soji’s bowl also features a sweet soy sauce and a topping of wasabi pea dust. Together, the fish and other toppings create a dynamic and complex flavor that leaves us wanting more.
What to expect: Sweet, spicy, fresh, salty, tasty—all in Soji’s cool Mid City space.
Late last year, Chow Yum Phat announced it would be moving into the Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar spot in White Star Market. As for the former space? The Chow Yum Phat team would be creating a raw bar called Yuzu. Its doors opened recently (read our story about it here), and toppings for the build-your-own bowls include traditional poke proteins, veggies and sauces, as well as unique additions like green curry vinaigrette, pickled squash, Southern Wild hot sauce and Yuzu’s signature “crack crunch” topping. In the future, the team plans to offer fusion dishes like ceviche tartare and poke burritos.
What to expect: Fresh flavors and interesting additions in the food hall setting at White Star Market.
Recently, P.F. Chang’s added a poke bowl to its menu. Made with diced ahi tuna, avocado, mango, seaweed and a mandarin vinaigrette, the dish screams fresh. Interestingly, the restaurant opts out of a rice or salad greens base and instead offers crunchy wonton chips on the side of the bowl. Traditional Hawaiian poke does not include any kind of rice, and upon tasting this bowl I can see why. The focus is on the fresh fish itself and how the toppings and vinaigrette blend together to make a delicious combination.
What to expect: A crunchier take on a classic poke bowl.
More poke places coming soon…
Aloha Poke, previously open on Perkins Road, is temporarily closed while it moves to a new spot on Essen Lane. BŌRU, a poke and ramen concept by the owners of Ichiban, is also slated for Electric Depot later this year.
Did we miss any poke restaurants? Let us know in the comments!