I managed to completely avoid poké while in Los Angeles, a city practically synonymous with the 2015 iteration, and assumed I was in the clear as long as I stayed on my side of the country. But within a matter of months, no less than three restaurants featuring cubes of raw fish dressed and gussied-up in bowls appeared nearly as far as one can get in the continental United States from Hawaii.
I don’t dislike poké. I just had better things to do in LA. In fact, it’s kind of a perfect office-day lunch: light with lots of satisfying texture and flavor. Except that I didn’t realize quite how popular Pokéworks was. I’m not sure if the new aspiring chainlet always has a line 30 deep at 2pm (enough to warrant a passing-out of samples and menus to soothe the eager) or if my inadvertently showing-up the same day The New York Times wrote about poké had any bearing on the line apocalypse that out-snaked Chick-fil-A’s corner queue a few doors down.
Originally, I mistook this as a poké bouncer–until I realize he was there to keep fish freaks from blocking the entrance to the gentleman’s club.
Pokéworks offers eight signature styles, including a vegetarian and chicken version, but after waiting 25 minutes, menu in hand, then eyes on the assembly line, it almost feels irresponsible to not attempt a custom order even though that might be the optimal way to assess what a restaurant is all about. Every option (it’s a six-step process) has already been computed mentally by this point. I felt like confident when I went for a brown rice base, a two-protein combo of ahi tuna and salmon, edamame and hijiki as mix-ins, classic salt (Hawaiian salt and sesame oil) flavor, masago-only topping (seaweed and salad and crab salad were tempting), plus garlic chips for crunch.
So many components might threaten to overwhelm the whole point of this purist dish, and I didn’t need all that rice, but the firm chunks of tuna and salmon still shone through, a bright counterpoint for a blustery winter afternoon in NYC.
Pokéworks * 63 W. 37th Ave., New York, NY
I’m hoping to try Sons of Thunder soon as it’s right by my office. I’m not overly confident that it will match what I had in LA, though – even just based on portion size and charging for add-ins. Counteracting the winter grey will be appreciated, but I feel like I also won’t get past not eating it such food in the warmth and sun!
I’m kind of a cheapskate and I didn’t think this was crazily priced ($10 and some change for a regular). The portion wasn’t skimpy. But there is something that just doesn’t feel right about eating poké in NYC.
Oh, that’s good to know because it’s hard to tell from photos what the portion sizes actually are like. Thanks!
I was here last week and really enjoyed the poke here. I’ve had poke in CA, and I have to say the flavoring here is just much better. Reading your post… makes me want to go back tomorrow. Thanks!
Im sort of a poke fanatic and have tried all the recent ones that have popped up in NY. Pokeworks was my favorite by a small margin due to them having the freshest fish and the most appetizing selection of toppings.
Do they say how and where their fish is sourced from? How do you know what they are serving is good enough quality to have raw?? Maybe i’m just a jaded new yorker but the whole idea skeeves me out here. Hawaii i get it. Nyc? Dunno.
I guess I’m not as worried as I could be. Their description is pretty vague: “made using only the highest-quality, sustainably sourced fish from local waters and beyond.”