Protein-packed Poké is everything a buzzing city needs for lunch, and it seems to be the only food Londoners are after in 2016, writes Zak Smith.
From Mayfair financiers to Soho creatives, imported from the sweeping coastline of Hawaii via trendy pop-up joints in Los Angeles, the only food Londoners are eating right now is Poké.
Food fads are no new thing, the proliferation of Peruvian restaurants over the past few years within the West End a testament to how trends can shape the culinary life of the capital. Now, it is Poké’s turn, with this diminutive, protein-packed explosion of colour in a plastic bowl popping up all over London.
Born on the shores of Hawaii, Poké, which literally translates in Hawaiian as 'sliced and diced' is cubed, raw fish (usually tuna) on a bed of rice, lavished in a soy-based marinade. Comparable to Japanese sashimi or Peruvian ceviche, the dish is ubiquitous in Hawaii, like hamburgers are in America. The ultimate ‘everyman’ dish, it’s as easy to find in upmarket eateries in Honolulu as it is to enjoy at a beach shack after a hard day's surfing.
Hawaiian food, like the country’s culture, is a veritable melting pot of tastes, styles and heritages. With Japanese, Filipino, Mexican, Pacific and American influences, and with Poké now travelling all across the globe, the bowl reflects the dish's adventures.
Despite it’s culinary similarities with sashimi and ceviche, Poké is it’s own dish, and has exploded in popularity for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s incredible healthy, jam-packed with protein and omega oils from the raw fish. The black rice used has antioxidants, the vegetables mixed in on top full of vitamins and natural goodness, and overall, there is very little wrong with it.
Despite the fact that Poké started to gain traction in Los Angeles with the health bloggers and foodie fad fiends, one of the reasons why it has hit the ground running in the likes of New York and London is because it fits a lunchtime niche between quick salad bowls and either larger (more expensive) sushi trays or carb-filled burritos (think 2013).
With so many customisation options, Poké bowls are personal, healthy, light and easy. Picking from salmon, sea bream, tuna or octopus, with a bed of quinoa or black rice, topped with Asian-inspired greens, zesty dressings and colourful condiments, the bowls are just pure fun, and in London, there are now plenty of options.
For the healthy lunch crowd, Ahi Poké in Fitzrovia is a great all-day spot, uncluttered and traditional in it’s take on Poké. It's Heat Wave option, with salmon, kimchee cucumber and spicy mayo is a popular choice, all from the guys behind North Audley Canteen. When it comes to more of a song and dance, Black Roe, in the heart of Mayfair, has Poké covered. The ‘Black Roe’, with Ahi Tuna and Yellowtail, flavoured with spicy yuzu salsa, is fantastic, a burst of flavour that doesn’t explode the waistline.
With new variations and restaurants popping up weekly in London, there has never been a better time to enjoy Hawaii’s favourite export of 2016: Poké.