The best poke this side of Oahu | Art & AppetiteSomething fishy in Edmonds
For weeks now, people have been remarking about the activity in the vacant space that was Starbucks at Edmonds' Westgate Village shopping center.
"Do you know what's going in there?"
"I hear it's going to be an Hawaiian place."
"I think it's a fish place."
It’s been interesting just listening to all the theories surrounding it.
Well, the mystery and wait are over. Ono Poke is officially open and enjoying brisk business. In fact, “brisk” is an understatement.
Indeed, owner Steven Ono has a slight problem. Although he's ordering vast amounts of the highest-grade, fresh sustainable Hawaiian ahi to be flown in, demand is so great that by early afternoon he’s had to turn away customers.
You can't really fault him, as he's increased the size of his order. No one could have anticipated the literal feeding frenzy that’s hit Edmonds’ latest hot spot.
Last Saturday, Ono Poke closed at 3 p.m. On Sunday, the ahi was gone by 1 p.m.
Poke (pronounced poh-kay, rhymes with croquet) isn't new – it refers to the end pieces of fish collected by fisherman after filleting them for market. Rather than waste them, these cube-shaped slices – the poke – would be marinated and thrown in with rice and veggies.
An entire cuisine has evolved out of that simple practice, and it's currently red hot along the West Coast.
We wandered in around 11:30 on Saturday and prepared for a wait. The line was not quite out the door, but the place was packed. Orders are taken at the end of a long, refrigerated glass case where you can view all the fish and other organic ingredients on display.
Total wait time for us was just under a half an hour. We were expecting it. They just opened. Everyone is dying of curiosity. No one was complaining.
What makes Ono Poke special is the attention to four key components. They strive to be authentic, fresh, organic and sustainable.
Each of these components makes for quality, but they’re not always easy to achieve – hence, the early closures last week.
The folks at Ono Poke were not willing to compromise with less than grade-A ahi, and I'm glad – it is amazing. I ordered the large bowl of ahi Sashimi.
What was graciously handed to me with the traditional “mahalo” was an absolutely gorgeous slab of fresh, dense, thick raw ahi of the darkest shade of red you've ever seen, in a bed of organic greens to which I added some of their great togarashi sauce.
I could almost feel the health benefits as I devoured it. To paraphrase a George Michael lyric, not everybody loves raw ahi, but everybody should.
If you don't like sushi, poke may not be for you, but don't despair. Ono Poke has several vegan options, too. We tried their vegan tofu with a little of their more traditional and milder soy sauce, and it was also delicious.
The whole crew at Ono Poke seem to be having a good time, I asked Steven what his current challenges were.
Aside from keeping up with the jaw-dropping appetite for good poke that Edmonds has demonstrated, the biggest challenge seems to be sharing his vision for quality ingredients to customers looking for Happy Meal prices.
Someone suggested that he should use imitation crabmeat – something he said will never happen. The very best quality ingredients don't come cheap, but they cost more in part because they taste fantastic.
I'm grateful that, thanks to Steven, Edmonds now has arguably the best poke this side of Oahu.
Rating: 4.8 out of 5
Where: 10016 Edmonds Way, Edmonds
Price: Poke bowls, $9-$15
Information: 425-361-7064, www.eatonopoke.com