Monday, April 23, 2018

Pokéworks, Mountain View

I've been reviewing a lot of poke places lately.  Which I know is a bit funny, as I also keep talking about how I don't really like raw fish these days.  But I love sauces, crunchy toppings, and crab salad.  And "krab" salad.  So, I'm kinda obsessed with poke bowls, just, uh, not the central component.

Most of my poke has been consumed while traveling, like MIX Poke Bar in Bellevue, Cubed Poke in Irvine, and New Sushi Inc in Boston (review coming soon!).  In SF, so far, I've only been to Big Fish, Little Fish (meh).

It turns out, I also ordered delivery from Pokéworks when I was in Irvine, I just didn't recognize the name, until I visited Pokéworks in Mountain View, and realized it was the same chain.  Doh!  Luckily, I liked Pokéworks, so I was excited when I realized this.

Or at least, I loved the toppings ... the lotus chips and wonton crisps in particular.  They were awesome.

So, I eagerly dragged a crew of co-works into Pokéworks in downtown Mountain View, excited to get a bowl of crispy things, crab salad, and yummy sauces.

But this location ... let something to be desired.

They were out of ... many things.  The seaweed snacks I planned to get on the side.  Sparkling water, my drink of choice.  And ... the lotus chips.  And the crispy wontons.  And the macadamia nuts.  Bora.  Sigh.  I know places run out of things, but this was a bunch of the things I wanted.  I adore the crispy things, and when I asked about it, she simply said, "we can't cook anything here, so we never have them."  It certainly didn't seem like they had just run out in that case ...

That said? I still adored my bowl.

Setting

Storefront.
The Mountain View location is ... tiny, even if it doesn't look so from the outside.  Located on Castro Street, right in downtown, a great location.
Register & Kitchen & Pickup.
When you enter though, the size is shocking.  Wowzer it was tiny.

No seating.  Very narrow.  Small register with *tiny* food prep area behind.

The line was short, but SOOOOOO slow.
Ordering Tablet.
They also had an ordering tablet, where we started our order, but realized we couldn't really modify things as we wanted, so, we waited.  And waited.  And waited in line.
Drinks.
The drinks were self-serve in a cooler.  Just water, a few sodas, and several varieties of iced tea were available.

They were out of sparkling water, which I was able to order from the tablet.  Glad we didn't actually place our order there.
Finishing Station.
Opposite the tablet was the condiments area, with napkins, wooden chopsticks, plastic cutlery, and simple sauces (soy, sesame oil, sriracha).  I appreciated that they had the extra sauces, but didn't end up needing them (more on that soon).

Food

The menu was basically the same as my previous experience at Pokéworks, just, minus all the missing items. "Poke your way", with a white rice/brown rice/quinoa/salad base, or a burrito, your choice of protein (2 for a regular, 3 for a large), mix-ins, single flavor sauce, toppings, crunch.  Or go simple with a already created "Signature Works".  They did not offer the kale noodles that lead me astray in Irvine, not that I wanted them.

I went custom, and customized ... extensively.  But I loved the results.
Poke Your Way, Regular. $10.95.
My bowl:
Base: Salad: fresh romaine and spring mix.

1st Protein: None.
2nd Protein: None.
Mix-Ins: Diced Mango, Hijiki Seaweed (Double), Ogo Seaweed (Double), Shiso Leaves.

Sauce: Umami Shoyu && Wasabi Aioli (both on the side).

Toppings: Surimi Salad (Double), Green Onion, Pickled Ginger, Spicy Furikake, Wasabi.

Crunch: Garlic Crisps, Onion Crisps, Shredded Nori, Toasted Rice Puffs.

I know this isn't really a traditional poke bowl in any way.  No main protein selection.  Believe me, I get that.  But I didn't want it.

I also didn't want a rice base, as I just don't like rice, so I opted for mixed greens instead, the least offensive of the options, although I wasn't actually excited for that either (but I just really don't like rice/brown rice/quinoa).  I wanted taro chips as a base!

I didn't have a protein.  I haven't been liking raw seafood lately, and I didn't want chicken or tofu, so, I just asked for no protein, which was a difficult thing to convince her I really wanted.

And I asked for sauces on the side, rather than mixed in, so I could experiment with different ones.  And wanted more than one sauce, which was also difficult.

I know this order was strange.  But, it is what I wanted.  And I liked it.  A lot.
My Bowl!
Once I dug in though, my grumpiness at the whole ordering experience went away.

I really enjoyed my bowl, although not every element was a success.

I could care less about the mixed greens base, and still really wish they'd have taro chips or perhaps even just kale, but, at least the greens were just non-offensive and an ok base, compared to the kale noodles I accidentally ordered (thinking it was shredded kale), last time..

It somehow had tons of mango (like seriously, why so much mango!), and, I didn't care for that either.  It wasn't very ripe, but really, it just didn't go with anything.  I ordered it before I learned about the lack of macadamia, and I had a mango-macadamia thing in mind, and instead, just wound up with lots of mango (seriously, tons of it) that didn't go with other elements like the wasabi aioli at all.

I also didn't like the pickled ginger, just like in Irvine, I found it strangely bitter.

But everything else ... everything else I really enjoyed, and I didn't really mind discarding these few things that I didn't care for.

I asked for double the crab salad, and since I didn't have a protein, this was accommodated, a bit huge pile of crab.  Ok, "crab", but I didn't care.  Plain on its own of course, but once I added the umami shoyu or the wasabi aioli, it was quite flavorful.  Both sauces worked, just in different ways, one a lighter option, the other more creamy.  I liked it both ways, and I was glad I opted to have those on the side so I could experiment.

I also loved the different seaweeds and the shiso, and asked for 2-3 times the normal amount, which resulted in an amazing layer of seaweeds.  Since I didn't get the seaweed salad (I just haven't been liking that style of seaweed lately!), and didn't have a protein, they didn't seem to mind loading me up on other things.

And finally, my crunch.  Not the crunch I wanted since they were missing half the things I wanted, but the crispy onion, garlic, and rice puffs all did give lots of crunch to it.

My perfect bites were seaweeds + crab salad + crunch + one of the sauces.  Seriously, so good.  I wonder what they'd do if I tried to order both no base and no protein, lol?  #nextTime
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