Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Cubed Poke, Irvine

Poke, poke, poke.  Yup, its a trend.  Yes, it will hit the Bay Area soon enough, if my recent travel to the Los Angeles and Seattle areas are representative of larger trends.  We might have a few poke places around San Francisco, but, wow, they are *everywhere* in Los Angeles.  And you know what? I'm on board.  Which is funny, as I don't really care for raw fish these days.  But bear with me.

Cubed is one of many, many poke establishments in the Irvine area.  I ordered delivery my first night in the area, when my flight was 5 hours delayed (!), and I arrived at the hotel much later than planned.  Once I was in a cab, I pulled up a delivery app, ordered a poke bowl, and it arrived about 10 minutes after I completed check-in.  Magic.

Since I ordered delivery, I can't comment on the establishment itself, but, the delivery was reasonably fast, well packaged.  It did come with a fork rather than chopsticks, and randomly, some soy sauce, but besides that, all was good.

Cubed's focus is poke bowls, but they also have a slew of interesting other dishes: avocado toasts (yes, really, let's just roll our eyes now), and tons of different musubis (traditional spam, but also deep fried, or tonkatsu, or even one with spam and jalapeno poppers).  Oooh, and battered fried salmon belly bites.  But since I was getting delivery, poke it was.

They have a selection of Cubed Signature bowls, their recommended recipes.  These all have no substitutions allowed though, so, not quite what I wanted, so I made my own.

 It was crazy satisfying, but, I was also starving at that point.
BYOB. $8.99 + $1 + $1+ $0.25.
"Our menu may look complicated and overwhelming but the best things in life usually are. We provide you with our house made sauces, variety of bases to fit your needs and wants with endless toppings. With our amazing sauces and quality ingredients, it would be nearly impossible to create a bad poke bowl."

Base: 1/2 kale, 1/2 shredded cabbage.
Protein: Octopus.
Sauce: Garlic ponzu.
Toppings: Wakame salad, fried shallots, tempura flakes, furikake, ponzu jelly, and garlic chips.
Premium Toppings: Imitation Crab, Pickled Radish.

Bowls have a lot of options.

First up, the base, with more options than most places: three types of rice (white, brown, forbidden), kale (yup, on trend!), shredded cabbage, or taro chips.  I was thrilled by these options, as I don't like rice, and most places only offer mixed greens.  I opted for half kale, half cabbage (although, taro chips were *very* tempting, I just added them on as a side instead).

Next, protein.  Standard salmon, tuna, spicy tuna, plus yellowtail or octopus.  A decent selection, but no scallops nor shrimp, nor anything like chicken or tofu for the non-seafood eaters.  I went for octopus.

Then sauce: ponzu, shoyu, garlic ponzu, spicy mayo, creamy ginger wasabi, yuzu.  I went for the garlic ponzu, with spicy mayo on the side.

Next, 5 toppings are included for free, with a huge selection, like veggies (onions, cucumbers, corn, shallots, jalapenos, green onion), crunchy things (fried shallots, tempura flakes, garlic chips), seasonings (sesame seeds, furikake, nori, chili oil, wasabi), and much more.  Additional toppings are $0.25 each.  I wanted too many of these, but narrowed in on 6 (yup, I paid an extra shiny quarter), going for the standard wakame salad, adding three crispy things (fried shallots, tempura flakes, and garlic chips), one spice (furikake), and, just randomly, because it sounded strange, ponzu jelly.

Premium toppings are next, and these all carry an additional $1 charge, items like avocado and imitation crab (that are often included in the base price elsewhere), plus far more interesting items like different types of masago, quail eggs, and their signature mango salsa.  I splurged for two, imitation crab and pickled radish.

So, how was it all?  Very good.  Well assembled.

I really liked my choices of the base, crispy shredded cabbage and fresh crunchy curly kale.  The cabbage was my favorite, as I adore slaws, and it soaked up the sauce from the poke really well.  Loved it, and I wish more places offered cabbage as a base.  The kale gave a good chew and made it more filling.

The sauce was fine, fairly mild but good slightly sweet soy flavor, and I wanted more actually, but at least it wasn't drowning in it.

The octopus was ... ok.  A huge, generous portion though.  Sooo much of this.  Kinda chewy, not awesome, but wow they gave a lot.  An an assortment of different cuts, some slices of thick bits, some smaller pieces of tentacles.  It was fine for what it was, but, I really only like grilled octopus, and only ordered this because I needed to pick something, and didn't want the raw seafood.

The seaweed salad was pretty standard, as was the crab salad.  The crab salad was a huge scoop, and my favorite component of the bowl.  Creamy, but not drenched in mayo.

The ponzu jelly was pretty fascinating, not as strong of a flavor as I thought it might be, but little cubes of flavor and a fun texture.  Also good flavor and texture was the pickled radish, crunchy and with slight acidity.  I'm really glad I added both of these.

My crunchy things were all kinda lost in each other: fried shallots, tempura flakes, and crispy garlic.  I loved the bits of crunch, and the additional flavor from the garlic and shallots in particular, but, they were all jumbled together.  All three probably weren't necessary.

So, a success.  If I could leave out the protein, I would, but otherwise, I'd happily order this same bowl again, perhaps asking for more sauce, and perhaps leaving off a crispy choice or adding on some other toppings, but, I liked my selections, and everything was fresh and flavorful.
Taro Chips. $2.00.
I didn't need a side with my bowl, but, I couldn't resist trying the house made taro chips.  I love snacky crispy things and I adore taro.  Plus, I thought I could save them for later ... (ha)

The taro chips were good.  Salty, crispy, fresh tasting, good taro flavor.  Devoured.

They are also available with mango salsa or guacamole to dip, but I'm allergic to avocado, so I ordered a side of spicy mayo to dip them in (and potentially mix into my bowl too).  It turned out to be too spicy and a strange flavor, but they were tasty enough on their own.

The decent sized bag was only $2, a good value.  
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