Monday, July 09, 2018

Poke from Poke Origin

I'll spare you the preamble.

Yes, I've join the swarm of people who are obsessed with poke.  You can read all my poke reviews here.

For me, my poke obsession started as a easy delivery or takeout option when I was traveling a lot for work and got sick of eating in restaurants constantly.  And for me ... uh, poke isn't about the raw fish.  Or a rice base.  I don't get either of those usually.  For me, it is about the toppings.  The crunchy things.  Oh, and of course, crab salad.  Even imitation crab.  Love the stuff.

Poke Origin is in San Francisco, far from my house and office, and not available for delivery from nearly any of the delivery services since it is too far away.  I've wanted to try it forever, but, just not generally accessible to me without a lot of effort.  But, Postmates came to our rescue when my work group wanted to order poke, and since we were a large group, the extra delivery fee was worth it.  Particularly for the options.

Oh, the options.  What sets Poke Origin apart, and why I was interested, is the options.  18 kinds of protein ... including non-standard items like lobster tail (!), spam, and three types of crab.  More than 20 toppings.  We were in.

Overall, I was quite pleased, and most of us really appreciated the large variety of toppings and options.  As someone who *doesn't* go for the raw fish, it worked great.  But ... everyone who did get raw fish felt the quality of the seafood was lacking.  Most said it didn't matter as much because of the great sauces and toppings, but, I can't recommend Poke Origin for quality seafood exactly.

I'd still order again.
Large Poke. $13.99.
"Five scoops of protein and your choice of base, toppings, and sauce."

Like many poke places, the concept is to design-your-own, with different selections for each step.  Bowls come in 2 sizes, regular (up to 3 proteins) or large (up to 5 proteins).

The steps:

Base (1):
  • Sushi White Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Mixed Greens
  • Kale
  • Nachos
  • Kelp Noodles
The base options are a good indicator of how Poke Origin excels.  Two choices for rice, two choices for greens, and even nachos or kelp noodles, if you are feeling really different.

Many places allow for 2, it was interesting that they only allowed a single choice.

I went with kale, given my recent strange kale obsession.

Next, Add-ons (0 - 5).
  • Cucumber
  • Sweet Corn
  • Carrot
  • Jalapeno
  • Red Onion
These were pretty basic, I only added sweet corn and jalapeno.

Protein (0 - 5 for large, 0-3 for regular):
  • Ahi Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Spicy Tuna
  • Scallop
  • Escolar
  • Albacore
  • Tofu
  • Crab
  • Spicy Crab
  • Shrimp
  • Spam
  • Octopus
  • Seared Albacore +$2.00
  • Marinated Big Eye Tuna +$2.00
  • Hamachi +$2.00
  • Snow Crab +$2.00
  • Unagi +$2.00
  • Seared Lobster Tail (Limited) +$6.50
Ok, um, wow?  This is where Poke Origin blows all other establishments away.  The number of choices, and selection, is just insane.

Want tuna?  You can have ahi, spicy, albacore, marinated big eye, or even seared albacore.  Want crab?  THREE CHOICES (imitation, spicy, or snow crab).  Um, they have spam.  And ... lobster tail??!

Yes, this is why I picked Poke Origin, as I adore crab, and it is my poke of choice, and I was thrilled to see so many options.  I got all three.

Note that some items (like lobster tail, obviously, carry a surcharge).  Additional scoops are available for $2 more as well.

Sauce (0 - 3)
  • Mild House Poke Sauce
  • Spicy House Poke Sauce
  • Spicy Aioli
  • Creamy Wasabi
  • Kimchee Sauce
  • Sesame Aioli
  • Unagi Sauce
  • Honey Avocado
  • Miso Sauce
  • Yuzu Citrus
The sauce options were also plentiful, creamy, spicy, mild, light, and everything in-between.  I'll dock them a point for only allowing 3, although you could add more for $0.50 charge.

I went for 6 different sauces, all on the side.  Honestly, I wanted them all (except the honey avocado since I'm allergic), but I was trying to be reasonable.

Toppings (Unlimited)
  • Seaweed Salad
  • Edamame
  • Jelly Fish
  • Kimchee
  • Oshinko
  • Green Onion
  • Cilantro
  • Ginger
  • Wasabi
  • Massago
  • Furikake
  • Sesame Seed
  • Minced Garlic
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Tamago +$0.50
  • Mango +$0.50
  • Pineapple +$0.50
  • Avocado +$0.50
And then, yup, tons of toppings, fruits, veggies, seasoning, crunchy stuff, and, uh, jellyfish?

Unlimited, although many premium ingredients had surcharges.

I added oshinko, green onion, ginger, wasabi, massago, furikake, sesame seeds, minced garlic, macadamia nuts, tamago, mango, and pineapple.  I was just so excited for all these choices!
Create Your Own Bowl (Large).
Top Layer: Tamago, Wasabi, Mango, Pineapple, Green Onion, Oshinko.
Digging into my bowl was a feat, as it was just so loaded up.  It was also HUGE.  Seriously, huge.  Large is easily multiple meals, or at least, it was in my case given the distribution of ingredients.  This was NOT a bowl of filler kale!

So, starting on top.

I haven't ever seen tamago at a poke shop before, and I was happy to pay a little extra for this.  The portion was a single slice.  It certainly wasn't fine sushi restaurant quality or anything, but, I enjoyed it.  Firm, slightly sweet.  I always get tamago at sushi restaurants for "dessert", and it worked similarly here, particularly with some sweet mango!

Speaking of mango, another premium ingredient, but done nicely here.  Large portion, super ripe and juicy.  The pineapple wasn't really worth the upcharge, it was literally just a little canned chunks of pineapple.  I was hoping it might be roasted?  Not sure what I was thinking really, likely just excited to see something different.  There was much less pineapple than mango, which was fine with me.

The wasabi, ginger, and green onion were not notable, all applied in reasonable portion.  My bowl was missing masago, which I ordered, and expect should have been on this top layer, as others in my group had it there.

My final ingredient here was oshinko, one of my favorite things.  I had exactly two small pieces.  TWO.  I know my bowl was loaded up, so I think this was the last thing to be added, and they just ran out of room?  I was still quite sad, as my co-workers (like the bowl pictured above), all had generous portions.
Middle Layer: Spicy Crab, Snow Crab, Imitation Crab, Sesame Seed, Furikake, Macademia Nuts.
Under that layer was the good stuff.  All the crabs, plus the "sprinkles".

I'll admit that I was pretty sad by the lack of quantity of the furikake, sesame seeds, and macademia nuts, as I adore those things.  It was easily fixed because I had my own at home, but still.  I also seemed to be missing the minced garlic, but it might have been in there and just minimal?

But the crab.  Um, wow.  You can't see it in this photo, but this was an insane amount of crab.  2-3 scoops of each of the three varieties.  I don't understand, actually.  My bowl had more proteins than any other, by far (of course, the others had more traditional, cubed, choices).  I'm not upset, but, it was an insane amount, honestly.

The spicy imitation crab was my favorite, standard imitation crab, shredded style, mixed with what I think was just the spicy aioli (which I had on the side too).  I liked it quite a bit, my favorite of the crabs.

The imitation crab was also good though, very standard imitation crab.  I enjoyed it, as I always do, particularly pairing and playing with different sauces (more on these soon).  It worked equally well with creamy sauces (creamy wasabi, spicy aioli, etc) and with lighter sauces (poke sauce, miso citrus, yuzu).  It also worked great as a "dip" for my taro chips (more on that soon too).  My second favorite of the crabs.

The one that shocked me though ... the snow crab.  The real crab.  The one I paid extra for.  It ... was just fishy and mushy.  I hated it, and discarded it.

Next time: I'm trying the spam, the seared albacore, and the lobster tail!
Lobster Tail..
One of my co-workers did get the lobster tail.  It came on the side, in its own box.  An actual poached lobster tail, in the shell and everything.

Bottom Layers: Kale, Sweet Corn, Jalapeno.
And then, once I extracted the pounds of crab, the base.

Normally bowls are filled up with the base, lots of rice, lots of greens, you know, the cheap filler.  For me?  Not much actually.  I *wanted* a bunch of kale, so this was a bit disappointing, but, again, they gave me so much crab I can't really be upset.

The kale was curly kale, and a bit strange actually.  It was very moist, in a way that almost seemed marinated.  I think this was just from all the toppings and juices running through.  I liked it though.

The jalapeno slices had some kick, great to pair with the crab.

And the strange winner?  Yeah, the sweet corn.  I'm nearly certain this was the kind from a can, honestly, nothing special at all, yet I really liked it.
Sauces: Creamy Wasabi, Sesame Aioli, Spicy Aioli, Miso Sauce, Spicy House Poke Sauce, Yuzu Citrus. (Top Left, Clockwise).
And then, sauces.  Normally mixed with your proteins and mix-ins, but I requested on the side so I could try independently, and mix and combine as I pleased.  And so I could dunk my taro chips!

I tried 6 of the 10 choices, and would gladly try all the rest.  They were all winners.

Starting from top left, clockwise:
Creamy Wasabi: This was good, I think actually a cream not mayo base, with a nice wasabi kick.  It didn't quite go with my selections, but I gladly saved it for later use, and, for the taro chips (which was a quasi successful pairing).  It worked great with some roasted plantains I had later!

Sesame Aioli: This was great! Nice flavor, creamy mayo base.  Interestingly, not a very full portion compared to the others.  Nice to dip the taro chips.

Spicy Aioli: Also good, creamy mayo based spicy aioli, like you'd use in spicy tuna or spicy crab, and I suspect they use to do so.  Not the best I've had, but totally fine.

Miso Sauce: This was fascinating.  I selected it because I like miso and I had no idea what to expect.  The miso flavor was there, which was nice, but it was also fairly oily.  I think it would make a great dressing mixed with some mayo.  Which I plan to use it for.

Spicy House Poke Sauce: Standard poke sauce, soy based, light, but, spicy (since I got the spicy one).  Nice heat.  Good with the crab instead of a creamy sauce for lighter option.

Yuzu Citrus:  Another light soy base, citrusy.  Fine, but my least favorite.

3 were included, the others were +$0.50 each extra.


It always makes me sad that most poke places to do not have side dishes for the most part.  Maybe some miso soup or bag of "Hawaiian" chips.  But Poke Origin, much like the plentiful options for proteins and toppings, has plentiful options for sides.  
Taro Chips. $2.
Ok, those taro chips I keep talking about.  They came in a little paper bag.  A little *greasy* paper bag.

They were just ok, honestly.  Over fried, as you can tell from the dark color.  Definitely too oily.  But the grease bag was a good sign, in that I think they were fairly freshly made?

I appreciated the option, and did gladly dunk them in my sauces, and use as scoops for my crabs.
Seaweed Salad. $3.50.
As I said, sometimes I like seaweed salad.  Sometimes I don't.  So, instead of having it as a topping on my bowl, where it could potentially "contaminate" everything else, I got it as a side.  

And ... it was the style I don't really like.  I still can't identify why I sometimes do and sometimes don't like seaweed salad.  It makes no sense, as it looks, and sounds, the same.  But it was just too slimy, got too stuck in my teeth, and didn't have great flavor.
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