Poké is a traditional Hawaiian dish meaning “to cut crosswise.” It originally consisted of raw fish combined with a marinade often made of soy sauce, sesame oil, onion, and seaweed. The dish began with fishermen who seasoned bits of fish from their catch as a snack. Eventually, foreigners introduced new ingredients to the island and expanded poké’s variety of flavors. Starting in the early 2010s, poké spread to North America with new Hawaiian immigrants. It became so popular that there are now over 100 poké restaurants in the Bay Area alone. Contemporary restaurants now offer the dish with sushi rice, salads, or noodles and a wide variety of toppings, including furikake (dried seaweed flakes), mango, green onion, and masago (fish roe).
With the abundance of poké shops in our area, we visited and rated four nearby spots based on taste, quality, price, and location.
Poke House - Palo Alto
855 El Camino Real #9, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Located in Town and Country—only 11 minutes away from M-A—Poke House offers poké bowls, hand rolls, sides, and drinks. The chain restaurant, which is one of the two stores on this list that provide indoor seating, offers signature and custom bowls of two sizes. Signature bowls include the House Salmon Bowl, Miso Salmon Bowl, and Tuna Lover Bowl. There are five protein options: salmon, tuna, octopus, shrimp, and tofu. The portions of protein are more than enough for one person, and the servers are generous with toppings. Our bowl cost us $19.95 without tax. The crunchy cucumber and bits of sweet, refreshing corn contrasted nicely with the creamy texture of the avocado. However, the fish was not fresh which we could tell by its stringy texture. Although Poke House offers a wider variety of products and flavors, the quality of the food is lacking, and thus earned it a 4.5/10.
Zion Sushi - Redwood City (Delivery Only)
426 MacArthur Ave, Redwood City, CA
Zion Sushi, a Brazilian-Japanese fusion restaurant, is an eight-minute drive from M-A. Because it is entirely off-premise dining, you have to place an order through their website or a delivery service app for pick-up or delivery. Aside from unique sushi rolls and appetizers, like the Biquinho (Brazilian) Pepper Joes–salmon topped with cream cheese and Brazilian biquinho peppers–the restaurant also sells signature and custom poké bowls. They have options ranging from Truffle Spicy Salmon to Hawaiian Spicy Tuna, the latter of which combines ahi tuna with pineapple cubes and avocado. Given the relatively cheap price ($13.00, including delivery), we were surprised that they offered four of seven possible proteins in each bowl. Ours came with their delicious lemon sriracha sauce; it blended well with the toppings and gave the bowl a fresh kick of acidic flavor. However, when our food arrived, we only received three of the four proteins we had ordered, and did not receive a refund.
Although Zion Sushi offers well-balanced signature bowls, the custom toppings, like edamame beans, jalapeño, and cucumber, are plain, and all the proteins lacked flavor. We would recommend other restaurants if you want an in-person experience with a tastier selection of custom options.
Basa Seafood Express - San Francisco
3064 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
Basa Seafood Express is a family-owned fish shop that offers sushi, sashimi, and poké. Out of all the shops we visited, it had the most affordable prices. For just $14, the combo option comes with a choice of tuna or salmon poké, a container of rice with seaweed, and a drink. The poké was prepared right in front of us and thus tasted much fresher than other stores. If you are visiting San Francisco, Basa Seafood Express is a great option. However, it does not have a parking lot, so you might have difficulty finding parking. We still gave Basa Seafood Express an 8/10 because their poké is worth the drive.
Go Fish Poke Bar - Stanford Shopping Center
660 Stanford Shopping Center #244B, Palo Alto, CA 94304
Go Fish Poke Bar is located in the Stanford Shopping Center, a seven-minute drive from M-A. The chain has restaurants all over the Bay Area and offers poké bowls, handrolls, mochi ice cream, temaki rolls, and more. Like Poke House, there are multiple tables to eat at indoors. There was no line, and the portions were reasonable, but there were fewer toppings than at Poke House, which has a similar setup. The three bases they offered were rice, fresh greens, or chips. There was a variety of proteins to choose from including ahi tuna and sesame gomae shrimp. We chose a sushi rice base with ahi tuna and salmon. From their sauce selection, we chose ponzu, which gave the bowl a citrusy taste. We added masago and garlic furikake that provided a delightful crunch to the bowl. We gave it a 7 out of 10 because it is a great first-time poké experience.