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Newborn: Pokéworks

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.

pokeworks interior

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.

pokeworks line

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.

pokeworks poke

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

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. 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!

    February 10, 2016
  2. krista #

    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.

    February 10, 2016
    • Oh, that’s good to know because it’s hard to tell from photos what the portion sizes actually are like. Thanks!

      February 11, 2016
  3. Mike #

    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!

    February 11, 2016
  4. Janie #

    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.

    February 11, 2016
  5. Ttrockwood #

    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.

    February 18, 2016
    • krista #

      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.”

      February 18, 2016

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