Pokeworks Is Not Worth the Line, But What Is?

Zach would be proud. Or maybe horrified. When he lived here, he always lamented the fact that we had very little (if any) options for Hawaiian poké. Well now, just a few years later, we have find ourselves in full-on poké hysteria.

After the opening of Sons of Thunder, there are now a handful of restaurants and fast food joints around the city specializing in the stuff. And there are more on the horizon. One of those new spots is in the heart of Midtown and has become very popular. Very, very popular.

I’ve walked by Pokéworks a handful of times around lunch, often hoping to grab some food, only to discover a line out the door and down the street rivaling the one at nearby Chick-Fil-A. Who are these people that wait in giant queues for fast food and raw fish??

I couldn’t bear waiting, but I did stop by one day after the lunch rush (aroiund 4pm) to check out the offerings and eat some seafood. There were just a few people inside the tiny little storefront when I arrived. So I had time to contemplate the menu, ask some questions, and eat my food at the small little counter.

This really is the customized fast food concept for poké. For those uninitiated, poké (which is originally from Hawaii but has recently become hugely popular in Los Angeles) is basically a raw fish salad (usually tuna or octopus) dressed with soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and other crunchy (and usually Asian influenced) ingredients.

Here you can choose from signature bowls (over rice), as a salad, or wrapped up in a seaweed “burrito.” Salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallops, and even tofu or chicken are on offer. There is also the option of mixing your own proteins with add-ons.

The prices are generally $10.50 for a regular portion of protein or $12.95 for a large. The vessel size stays the same, but the amount of fish increases.

I got the Salmon Shiso burrito because I wanted to see how big and filling a glorified sushi roll could be. The amount of food was decent, but really more of a big snack or appetizer than a full on meal. I did appreciate that you could add as many mix-ins as you wanted. But seaweed and shiso leaves won’t really fill me up like some more salmon would.

This was also incredibly messy. As soon as I picked it up, all the ingredients fell out onto the container and so I was eating the rice and fillings separately to the seaweed. Basically getting it wrapped up like this is more for aesthetics (or Instagram) than it is for actual practicality.

On top of that, the flavors were just ok. Without asking for more yuzu ponzu sauce or filling up from the sauce bar, the burrito was kind of bland. It had some nice textures from masago, crispy onions, and edamame, but there wasn’t a lot of flavor without adding more sauce. On the plus side, all the ingredients tasted rather fresh.

How long will this poké fever last? Will the lines continue out the door every day? It’s kind of a novelty in the city right now and when mixed with the right ingredients, poké can be super refreshing and flavorful. I would definitely come back to try some of their other creations, but I won’t be waiting in that line anytime soon.

Pokéworks, 63 West 37th Street (btw 6th and 5th Avenue), (212) 575-8881


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