Steve’s Poke Bar just opened a new location at Surrey’s Central City Mall June 9th, and craving some light fare on a hot summer day I poked my head in to try some of what’s rumoured to be the best poke (pronounced poh-keh) in the city.
For those unfamiliar with this trendy Hawaiian dish, poke’s literal translation is “cut into chunks”, which describes the raw fish that’s chopped up and served over rice with the addition of various toppings. Basically Hawaii’s answer to donburi.
Anyway, at Steve’s Poke Bar you can pick one of their Signature Bowls featuring two scoops of poke for $13.75 or you can have it your way and build one from scratch. Most toppings are free to add to any bowl (except the Traditional! More on that below…) but premium items, which are the ones with $ signs above, will run you an extra loonie per.
The friendly and bubbly girls they have working on staff will be sure to help you out if you have any questions, and they made my experience all the more enjoyable with the positive vibes coming from behind the counter. Thanks again ladies!
If you’re overwhelmed by the options or are unfamiliar with poke, or if you’re like me and that victorious feeling of scoring free stuff is irresistibly tempting, Steve’s Poke Bar offers bite-sized samples of all their fish.
I tried Alana Moan’s Ahi Tuna, a delicacy dry-rubbed with chili, Hawaiian salt and masago. This one’s fresher than an ’80s emcee with a penchant for neon, and nearly as bright. There’s a mild hint of spice from the chili but it isn’t overpowering. I’m definitely going to add this to my next BYOB (Build Your Own Bowl)! But for now I had a must-try on my radar…
Steve’s Traditional Poke Bowl ($16) is that rarest of rarities, a food court item that looks better than its advertised photo! That’s like going into one of those free oil change places and leaving without spending any money; it’s just one of the many ways we expect to get scammed in this day and age.
This dish was voted Vancouver’s best poke over at Vancouver Foodster so I wanted to see what a Surrey boy would make of it. Steve’s Poke Bowl is the one dish that you aren’t allowed any extra toppings on. That’s right, Steve won’t let you! But don’t get all salty, you won’t miss them…
I’d never had poke like this! Usually I get it all gussied up with toppings and sauces, but this poke reminded me why I value the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) ethos of Japanese cuisine by combining just a few key ingredients, allowing their quality and freshness to shine. And adding rules to eating is a pretty Japanese thing to do too, although Steve himself is a Malaysian-born Vietnamese dude. However he grew up between Vancouver and Hawaii and trust me, this guy knows his Hawaiian food so take his advice and don’t muck up his signature dish with a bunch of add-ons.
The warm rice was the perfect consistency and temperature, with light dashes of shoyu sauce here and there, a layer of salty-sweet furikake seaweed seasoning replete with black and white sesame seeds, and the crown jewels: four scoops of two types of deep red ahi tuna — spicy and shoyu. These were catch-of-the-day delicious and rich in flavour, mixed with a bit of raw onions and sprinkled with the ubiquitous sesame seeds and some green onion to boot. The pickled ginger tucked neatly into the side of the bowl was a welcome palate cleanser to keep enjoying that glorious raw fish as if each bite was the first. And that furikake! That’s it I gotta wrap this review up, I’m dropping flecks of drool on my keyboard…
Hands down, Steve’s Traditional is my new favourite poke. Nothing else even comes close. It may be a tad pricier than your average food court fare, but I think the premium is well worth it.
With healthy options such as Quesada, Cultures, and now Steve’s Poke Bar, Central City food court is offering more inspired choices for downtown Surrey’s shifting demographic. Now if only the rest of the mall would follow suit, can there really be THAT much demand for 3D wolf posters and fake jewel-encrusted baseball hats? Who’s buying this stuff? And why does Guildford get all the good stores?? /endrant
Thanks for bearing with me and if you have a favourite poke restaurant or dish, let us know in the comments below! We love checking out new places based on reader recommendations so send us yours!