Have you tried NYC’s newest food obsession? Poke, pronounced “poh-kay,” is the trending chopped ‘n’ chunky Hawaiian fish salad that’s making waves in New York City. Meaning “to cut” in Hawaiian, it’s a sushi-esque treat, traditionally made with a firm fish like ahi (Bigeye tuna). Diced into thick cubes the fish is then mixed with seaweed and raw onion, and, most importantly, lightly marinated in a soy and sesame dressing. While anything can be a poke as long as the technique is used, it’s evolved in NYC to include Japanese and East Asian components, varied proteins and bases like unagi (eel) or rice. We’ve mapped out the top poke places to visit while on this side of the mainland.
Sons of Thunder – Murray Hill
Sons of Thunder was supposed to be a West coast style burger place, but four months before they opened, owners James and John Kim found out they wouldn’t have their gas installed on time. So they decided to serve poke instead, and thank goodness they did. Sons of Thunder (the first poke place to open in the city) serves fresh, made-to-order poke that is marinated in small batches and adheres more to true Hawaiian poke. Quality is at the forefront here: the Faroe Islands-farmed salmon, for example, is sustainably raised, and hormone- and antibiotic-free.
What to Order: In addition to ahi tuna, SOT offers salmon, marinated octopus, tofu or golden beets (vegetarian option) and even lime spritzed cauliflower rice for those looking to stick low carb. Order a combo bowl to try several flavors.
Noreetuh – East Village
‘Noreetuh’ means playground in Korean, and Chef Chung Chow and his partners Gerald San Jose and Jin Ahn wanted the East Village restaurant to be a casual place to explore the flavors and preparations of Hawaii from a modern perspective. Chef Chung (born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu) kept the menu like the poke he knows from back home.
What to order: Big eye tuna poke, with jalapeños pickled in soy sauce and adds macadamia nuts. It’s a rare mix of flavors in mainland poke, but actually is fairly common in Hawaii.
Sweetcatch Poke – Midtown East
Midtown East gets a much needed upgrade with the presence of Sweetcatch, Top Chef star Lee Anne Wong’s Hawaiian seafood counter that offers everything from the classic Hawaiian variety dressed in shoyu and sweet onions to Korean chile powder and citrus-honey-laced bowls. Sweetcatch focuses on marinating its fish in house-made sauces for at least 30 minutes for optimal flavor. And be on the lookout for more Sweetcatches: it’s opening two more locations this September at Bryant Park and the Financial District.
What to order: The spicy yuzu chile bowl, served with the catch of the day fish with a yuzu chile sauce, white and green onions, cucumber, radish, mango, red chile, cilantro and sesame seeds.
Wisefish – Chelsea
Wisefish’s logo is actually the Hawaiian state fish, with the longest name in the world: The humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (humu humu for short!). With an emphasis on health and housemade, fresh, and preservative-free ingredients, Wisefish Poke in Chelsea offers of a menu of pre-calibrated flavors or DIY style poke bowls. In addition to white and brown rice, Wisefish includes zucchini noodles if you’re trying to bulk up on your veggies.
What to order: Go for the monthly special, highlighting seasonal and local ingredients, paired with limited-time-only house-made sauces, mix ins and toppings. September’s special is the Mediterranean Summer, which combines salmon, curried chickpeas, turmeric pickled vegetables, lemon tahini and sesame seeds.
Chikarashi – NoMad
NoMad’s just-opened Chikarashi (chirashi + Hawaiian poke) is serving poke with a Michelin-starred touch. Chef Michael Jong Lim, formerly of Masa and Neta, takes an ingredient and flavor profile driven approach, playing with condiments and sauces like ponzu and sansho mayo using fine dining techniques learned in lauded kitchens. Instead of building your own bowl, Chikarashi offers precalibrated menu options based on flavor composition.
What to order: The Sichuan chile salmon and seared aburi otoro (a fatty tuna) are must haves. And if you’re averse to raw fish, the roasted miso cod and grilled unagi are excellent gateway bowls to poke.
Maui Onion – Flatiron
If you have a craving for seafood, try the fresh Hawaiian food at Maui Onion. Customers love their fresh fish and they offer a great menu of bowls, burritos, salads, temaki (hand rolls) and fresh juices. Popular seafood items include smoked spicy tuna, cooked octopus, unagi (eel), shrimp salad, and uni (sea urchin). A definite must when in and around Flatiron.
What to order: Smoked Spicy Salmon, Yuzu Shoyu Tuna, and Wasabi Tako. Don’t forget to try their free toppings (i.e. crabmeat, seaweed, edamame, lotus chip, Serrano pepper).