Zagat: The Rise of Poké Bowls

This week, Zagat editor Billy Lyons examines the rise of poké bowls as a fast casual option in New York. He filed this report.

Wisefish and Sons of Thunder are two fast casual restaurants that specialize in poké bowls.

But what makes this traditional Hawaiian dish so unique, and why is it now becoming popular with New Yorkers? 

"I was introduced to poké, and I kind of immediately fell in love with it. My initial reaction was why have I not had this or heard of it before," said Wisefish Poké co-founder Drew Crane, whose vacation to Hawaii became the beginning of his business plan. 

Whether it is the distance from Hawaii to New York or just a general unawareness of the item initially, the concept has taken off and several poké bowl establishments are now popping up.

Poké in Hawaiian translates to "cut" and the concept is typically applied to any type of seafood, though most iterations involve tuna and salmon. 

The poké of choice is often coated with a soy glaze and then placed over warm rice, though toppings like seaweed, avocado, and garlic crisps can be used to add extra flavor.

"I do think the most important thing about the poké bowl is the quality of the fish is first and foremost," noted Crane. 

"Excellent texture there, you're going the soft fish, the smooth texture of the rice, as well as the mixed greens," said Justin Park, a manager at Murray Hill poké spot Sons of Thunder.

"I think the healthy aspect of is used. I think people generally care more these days and poké fits into that trend really, really well" added Crane.

But poké bowls aren't just any dish; they're an introduction into Hawaiian culture. "It's something that is really engraved into the culture there, that everyone grows up and sees fish over rice," said Park.

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