Monday, June 25, 2018

Poki Time

Poke, poke, poke.  Yup, I'm on board the trend, as you've been reading in all my poke reviews.

Poke has become my staple of business travel, when I really don't want to go out to another restaurant meal, and just want takeout or delivery to my hotel room.  I pick it generally because it is something that does work well for takeout/delivery, in that it isn't hot food that turns lukewarm, and it isn't particularly heavy, but can be full of flavor and texture.

But this time, I had poke in my home city, from Poki Time.  Poki Time is a small poke chain in the Bay Area, with only 3 locations, two in SF, one in Daly City.

We ordered delivery as we had some co-workers visiting from out of town, and they had just landed, and wanted a simple, fast dinner so they could get to their hotels and sleep.

I knew just what would fit the bill: poke!

Delivery was via Caviar, which was easy to use as always.  I especially liked being able to create a group order, and let everyone customize their bowls and place their own orders.  Delivery was on time, tracking was reliable, proper notice provided as delivery neared us, the currier friendly.  No issues at all with the ordering/delivery experience.

Our food came with folks and napkins, but no chopsticks.  I'm not sure if they don't offer them in general, but we all did say, "Minus one point!" for the lack of chopsticks.
*Very* Custom Bowl. Lol.
Ok, the concept of Poki Time is standard DIY Poke Bowls, with a few on-trend options (kale base of course!) and a few nice upgrades (real crab!).  Our bowls came nicely labelled, with each person's name, and full order details.

The options:

First: two sizes, regular (2 scoop) or large (3 scoop).

Then, base: White Rice, Brown rice, Mixed Greens, Kale (or any mix of two).

Then, protein: Salmon, Tuna, Yellowtail, Crab (Wild Blue Crab), Spicy Tuna, Shrimp, Tofu.

And ... sauce: Original (Sesame Shoyu), Spicy Mayo, Ponzu, Wasabi, Spicy Seoul (Korean-Pepper Sauce). You may select up to 5 of these.

Finally, toppings: Green Onions, Red Onions, Cucumber, Corn, Edamame, Seaweed Salad, Masago, Carrot, JalapeƱo, Sesame Seeds, Furikake, Ginger, Wasabi.

And premium toppings: Avocado ($1.00), Mango ($0.50)

I was sad to not see that many crunchy toppings, but otherwise, the lineup looked decent.

I went for a regular bowl (2 scoop) but added a third scoop (more crab!), so, basically a large bowl.  I wanted to try all the sauces, but was limited to 5, so I picked 5, and asked for them on the side, with a note about wanting to try the sauces.  They threw in the 6th one too!  I also asked for lots of crunchy topping, noting that fried onions weren't available on the delivery menu, but I thought they had them.  They included them.

My creation:
  • Kale base.
  • Salmon, Crab, Extra Scoop of Crab.
  • Green Onions, Seaweed Salad, Masago, Carrot, Mango
  • Wasabi, Ginger, Furikake, Sesame Seeds.
  • All the sauces (on the side).
Custom Bowl. $15.45.
The bowls were all really nicely assembled, each ingredient in its section.  Quantities of each ingredient though were not consistent.

Overall ... it was ... ok.  Some positive points, some negative.

The kale base was a strong point, very fresh, crisp, and nice size chunks.  I laughed at myself for ordering the kale, but, I did like it.

The carrots were just shredded and a bit dry.  The green onion, pickled ginger, wasabi, and masago were all very standard, nothing interesting to say about them.  Not much green onion, but everything else was a good amount, not too much, not too little.

The mango was a big surprise, there was TONS of it.  And it was really fresh, juicy, ripe, sweet.  Mango in the US is usually so lackluster, this was a very pleasant surprise, and, even though a $0.50 extra charge, my portion of mango was a bit insane.

The seaweed salad was also a surprise for me, as I've lately been skipping seaweed salad, or, more often, ordering it, and not liking it, and being sad, because I used to love it.  This version I really did enjoy.  I think it didn't have the standard marinade/sesame seeds/etc to it, and I just found the flavor and texture much nicer.  The portion was normal, but I wished for more!

Speaking of wishing for more there was barely any sesame seeds or furikake.  It was clearly a tiny little shaker, with a single dash applied.  Basically non-existent.  I was glad I had a container of sesame seeds/furikake/crispy onions/nori at my desk (this is normal, right?) to jazz it up.  I offered more to my co-workers who all eagerly added some, and said that their bowls too were lacking.

And finally, the seafood.  I was thrilled to see crab treated as a protein and not just a side, and, it was real crab (snow crab).  The seafood came in HUGE scoops.  Seriously massive portions.

The problem?  I didn't like it.  At all.

The salmon was chewy, very chewy, and didn't taste fresh.  I discarded it quickly.

The crab I tried sooo hard to like.  Real crab.  Lump crab chunks in there even, along with lots of shredded crab.  But ... it was just too mushy, too fishy, and just not good.  I really didn't like it.  It reminded me of bad tuna salad.  Its particularly sad because there was sooo much of it.

So, the kale base, the mango, the seaweed salad, all great, above average even.  Many other elements, average.  But the seafood ... not so good.
All the sauces.
Like I said, I asked for my sauces on the side, and I'm glad I did.  I love trying all the sauces.  They even threw in the 6th one for me, even though they normally limit you to 5 sauces.  Thank you, Poki Time!

The sauces weren't labelled, but most were easy to figure out, once I tasted them.

Top to bottom:
  • Spicy Seoul (Korean-Pepper Sauce): This was the one I didn't order, because I could only pick 5, but they added in for me.  No question which this was once I took a bite, this stuff was clearly the spicy one!  It packed some serious punch, gochujang / sriracha like spice.  Great for adding some kick, if you wanted it.
  • Original (Sesame Shoyu)  [ I think ]: The shoyu and ponzu were hard to distinguish.  I think I detected a slight amount of sesame flavor in one, so, I deem it the Original.  Light, mild, soy based.  Simple, likely a good marinade.
  • Wasabi: I had no idea what to expect from a sauce simply called "wasabi", but, it seemed to be just soy sauce ... with wasabi added?  No different really from what I could achieve from the original sauce and my wad of wasabi in my bowl.  But, normally you use this as a sauce the fish is tossed with, so that would be more interesting than just the original sauce.
  • Ponzu [ I think ]: Like I said, the ponzu and shoyu were hard to distinguish, this one also just a light soy-like sauce, but I think I detected a hint of citrus.
  • Spicy Mayo: The only creamy sauce on offer, spicy mayo.  Fairly standard, creamy, spicy (sriracha? or maybe the korean pepper?).
  • Sweet Soy (Unagi Sauce): This one was the most unique, a thicker sauce, sweet, sticky.  I think best used as a drizzle, I wouldn't have necessarily wanted my fish tossed with it.
Overall, I'm glad I got to try all the sauces, but none were really standouts for me.  I saved my sauces and used them many ways over the next few days, but, I didn't ever really find a favorite, or one I felt compelled to find pairings for.
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