-3 Snaps! Try it. You might like it.
Food trends have been a part of the food scene for as long as there has been a food scene. An article in The Daily Meal is a testament to that. (Check the link to see what peculiar trend was happening in the decade you were born). Recently poke (pronounced POH-keh) acai' bowls have jumped on the trend train and have emerged as a thing. They followed Ramen two years ago, matcha, and tapas before that, all a part of the burgeoning Tampa food scene. Recent bowl eateries include Fresh Kitchen, Vale Food Co. in Tampa and Karma in St Pete. It's such a strong category that Laura Reiley, Tampa Bay Times food critic, recently wrote a top ten list to help cull the long list locally.
Halfway between downtown Tampa and Westshore Blvd a new poke bowl shop gleans with a shiny galvanized metal roof and bright white black and blue signage. Poke Fish purports to be healthier than typical fast fooderies and is super popular in the nouveau cuisine crowd.
Poke stems from a Hawaiian tradition of slicing up small pieces of raw marinated seafood and mixing it with fresh veggies. Patrons at Poke Fish watch their dish being prepared while going through a cafeteria style line.
To me it's a way to repackage sushi without needing a master sushi chef or a sushi bar. Not a bad idea since I, along with most of my foodie peers, love sushi! But it's that expectation of quality sushi in a bowl that ultimately leads to disappointment.
There's a lot of selection to be made. Customers pick their size, base, poke, mix-ins, marinades, toppings, and sauces. The three size offerings snack, regular, and large for $8.95, $10.95, and $12.95 respectively. Base selections include two veggie and two rice options. We order a bowl of each as a base and mix it up a little as we go.
For poke I select Gulf shrimp and salmon to mix on my rice and veggies. The five shrimp are boiled or blanched and not very firm. The salmon bits also lack in the firmness I would expect from a sushi grade. I can't tell if it is actually lacking in flavor or if the pieces are just too small to get a full nose and mouth, as one might with sashimi. The white rice is also too soft, a result I suspect of living in the steamer too long awaiting orders. The entire bowl just doesn't meet my metric for a sushi replacement. Two regular bowls and with two infused waters is $32.00, a high number for a cafeteria style lunch offering.
As one might expect, there's no soft drink fountain at this healthy meal stop. They have flavored infused waters ($1.50) and a refrigerator case with canned matcha, Buddy Brew coffee, and other beverages. Servers behind the counter are discombobulated on my visit and a couple of them curt. But it's lunch time and crowded so no big deal. Parking is rough. The parking lot offers a total of 8 parking spots shared with Smoothie King next door. Neighboring street parking is also limited and surrounding parking lots for other businesses warn of towable infractions. The parking seems to fit the design of the inside however, which only offers 3 small two-person tables. Once the new-place novelty wears down it should be manageable. For now pick-up might be the best bet here, especially during busy meal times.
Chip Weiner is a Tampa food blogger and an award winning freelance photographer specializing in portraiture, food photography and photojournalism . He has been a photography instructor for over 10 years and teaches Tampa photography classes throughout the year. Have a suggestion for a food event or restaurant? Contact him here
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