I have a good friend who is decidedly NOT a foodie. (I know, shocking, right?) I suspect he may be an over-taster—someone who doesn’t like spicy food or very seasoned, flavorful food because it actually overwhelms his palate in an unpleasant way. Why do I have these suspicions? Well, when asked what his favorite food is, my friend, who has eaten at some very nice restaurants, says he would probably just eat Subway sandwiches and Domino’s Pizza for every meal if he didn’t have to take his girlfriend out. When my husband and I talk about how much we love a sandwich from GTA, for example, our friend suggests that we’re just posturing about loving this sandwich, and if he traded it out for a Subway sandwich and told us it was a $12 sandwich from GTA, we wouldn’t know the difference.
This is obviously patently untrue. I am currently imagining a hilarious blind taste test. Then again, I might have to eat my words—I once saw an episode of Shahs of Sunset in which a bunch of the cast members claimed that in a blind taste test they could easily distinguish Dom Perignon and Cristal from André, and some of them were embarrassingly unsuccessful. I mean, one girl thought they were all André, so that’s a little disconcerting.
Anyway, I think it probably goes without saying that I don’t often turn to this friend for restaurant recommendations. He often used to turn to me for recommendations when he was dating and needed a good spot to take a girl who, presumably, possessed taste buds. But to my surprise, he actually turned me on recently to a great spot in Venice. It’s a little window on Ocean Front Walk, and it specializes in something I don’t often find in LA: Poke.
Poke is that Hawaiian mainstay consisting of big chunks of sushi grade ahi tuna, marinated in some sort of soy or ponzu and citrus, usually with avocado, sesame seeds, and scallions. I don’t always think about poke when I am considering what to get for lunch, probably because it’s not prevalent here, so it’s not on my mind. But really, it’s such a great dish to add into your lunch rotation. It’s full of protein and healthy fats, it’s light and delicious, and it’s a nice deviation from my usual lunch of salad, salad, or maybe salad.
Poke Poke is the brainchild of Hawaiian native and now Venice denizen Jason McVearry, and his wife, Trish. I love how they describe what poke is to Hawaiians, so I’m just going to let you read their version here. Basically it reminds me of how fast food works in Japan—in Tokyo, eating food from a convenience store is not gross. It’s completely normal. You can stop in to a 7-11-style convenience store in Japan and pick up a nice little bento box, omusubi, or oden, pack it up for your lunch, and be set. In Hawaii, where the food is so heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine anyhow, poke is a casual dish one can pick up in a convenience store, too. That’s right—raw fish from a convenience store. But it’s Hawaii! Fish is fresh and local, and the dish is simple, yet elegant.
I would not encourage anyone to eat poke from a California 7-11. But I would certainly encourage everyone to visit Poke Poke and customize the perfect little takeout package of poke—they can do it spicy, small or large, with or without rice, topped with avocado, masago, and any number of variations. You can even get Macadamia nuts on your poke. My favorite is the Aloha Poke with avocado and jalapeño. Everything is affordable, especially if you get it with rice instead of all fish—the large poke bowl with rice is only $11; just $7 for the small.
There are a couple of options for vegetarians, including a large acai bowl for $6 with big chunks of coconut and bananas and granola. I would just suggest asking that they go light on the honey in the acai bowl—it’s nice, but it kind of takes over the flavor profiles of the light, fruity sorbet base.
Considering we seem to be having an LA summer that just won’t quit, a frozen acai bowl or a scoop of lightly marinated ahi sounds like an absolutely perfect lunch. Take a walk down the beach as you eat to complete the Hawaii-in-LA experience. As a bonus, the flies won’t bother you that way. You’ll…know what I mean.
Check out my Instagram (@laon20aday) for pics from lunch with my friend and Oahu-native, Z, who I took with me to authenticate this beachside fish shack. It’s Hawaiian-approved!