Careful Your Wallet Doesn’t Get Poke-d at Poke Kitchen

It’s inevitable that people start jumping on the poke band wagon and charge ridiculous prices for a small amount of food. And it has already begun. We now have our third Midtown haunt dedicated to the Hawaiian-style raw fish bowls.

It opened last week and is called Poke Kitchen. I stopped by in their first few days open and I had a very strange experience. I was the only person in the restaurant. Considering it’s set back a little bit on quiet East 39th Street and then up a set of stairs, I wasn’t overly surprised. The only other people in the space were the employees and people who must have been the owners. They were checking out the exterior and watching my every move.

There are no choices here. Poke Kitchen only serves an “omakase.” It’s $15 and you can add anything you want from their menu. But whether you get one thing or everything, it’s still $15.

I almost walked out right then and there. This is almost double the ML budget of $10. Quality fish is certainly at a premium, but the other poke spots have managed to offer a more budget option. I also think this price is way too high considering it feels like any other fast food place. It’s not like I am actually getting an omakase meal with multiple dishes and table service.

But I stuck around and ordered a bowl with everything – which included endamame, avocado, ginger, and fish roe. If I was going to pay $15, I was going to get as much as possible.

They did not have salmon because the cashier told me it wasn’t fresh. I appreciate that they don’t serve less than fresh fish, but why did they receive an order of something that wasn’t fresh? I thought it was actually TMI.

The bowl ended up having many ingredients, but I wouldn’t say there was enough of any one thing to be worth the price. I was also disappointed that it seemed overloaded with spinach and light on the rice. Not a very filling meal for this price.

As for the flavors, they were ok. I got the yuzu pepper aioli and it was nice and brought out the flavors of the tuna and albacore. While the fish was fresh, I can’t say the same thing for the limp cucumbers.

I do want to point out that this was only the first week of their operation. Hopefully, kinks will get worked out and the portion sizes will improve. But we really can’t ignore the price point. Not even buzz words like omakase or poke can justify this $15 lunch.

Poke Kitchen, 127 East 39th Street (btw Park and Lexington Ave), 917-388-2664


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