What is poke? Where is poke?

You’ve got food questions, we’ve got food answers.

Spicy tuna poké at Ohana in Highland. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The poké bowl at Adrift. (Courtesy of B Public Relations)
The poke bowl at Adrift. (Courtesy of B Public Relations)

You’ve got food questions, we’ve got food answers.

This one’s a little less familiar than pizza, but by now — April 2017 — you’ve probably at least heard of poke. The Hawaiian dish is making its way from sushi restaurant menus and into restaurants 100-percent dedicated to its raw goodness, and we’re ready to call it a trend.

Last summer, Ohana Island Kitchen opened for business in Highland, where its been serving take-out poke and other Hawaiian fare for the lunch crowd. The Poke City out in the Denver Tech Center followed just a few months after. And earlier this month, we learned that QuickFish Poke Bar will replace Bamboo Sushi at Avanti Food & Beverage this summer.

So as the trend and the summer weather heat up, here’s a primer on poke in Denver.


The word poke literally translates to chunk or to chop,” said Tyler Critchfield, chef at Adrift Tiki Bar. “It started out as a marinated meat dish, any kind of meat was involved, originally.”

It grew more specific until it got to the point we’re at now. It’s made, “traditionally with ahi tuna, soy sauce, sesame oil, some kind of seaweed, scallions and what are called moluccana, or candle nuts.”

You’ll see plenty of variations on the standard poke (pronounced po-kay), which Critchfield says happens as much on the islands as it does here (so don’t worry about it being an “inauthentic” mainland perversion). What it really comes down to is freshness.

“It’s one of those dishes that all of the ingredients sort of speak for themselves, everything in it is raw,” Critchfield said. “Basically you just want high-quality, fresh ingredients … Tuna is a beautiful thing on its own, and it’s one of those things that needs to be showcased on its own.”

Of course, raw tuna isn’t so easy to come by in Colorado, which helps explain why poke is only just starting to catch on in Denver. According to Critchfield, better seafood sourcing is to thank.

And while it’s a relatively new thing in this landlocked city, it’s one of Hawaii’s most common dishes.

“It’s kind of like the hamburger in Hawaii,” he said. “…You can pretty much go to any little market in Hawaii and find a poke.”

Since that’s still not the case in Denver, we made a handy little list of places you should visit to get yourself some poke.


Ohana Island Kitchen
Spicy salmon poké at Ohana in Highland. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) food; poke bowl; highlands; ohana; kevinjbeaty; denver; colorado; dneverite;
Spicy salmon poke at Ohana in Highland. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Where: 2563 15th St., Suite 105, Highland
When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday
What: Shoyu poke: Sashimi grade ahi tuna cubed and lightly marinated in tamari and sesame, garnished with sweet onion, scallions and sesame seeds ($12)

Spicy tuna poke: Marinated sashimi grade ahi tuna cubes tossed in creamy spicy-mayo with tobikko, garnished with scallions and sesame seeds ($12)

Poke over kale: Side kale salad topped with half portion poke ($10)


The Poke City

Where: 8101 E. Belleview Ave., Suite B1, DTC 
When: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
What: Build your own


Adrift

Where: 218 S. Broadway, Speer
When: 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday
4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
What: Kilauea poke: ahi, albacore, mango, wakame and taro chips ($14)

And take a look at their snazzy new happy hour.


Blue Island Oyster Bar

Where: 2625 E. Second Ave., Cherry Creek
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday
10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
What: 
Yellowfin ahi tuna poke with cucumber, snap peas, poke sauce, sesame and scallion ($14.95)


Mister Tuna
The Charlie Guard Poke at Mister Tuna. (Courtesy of TAG Restaurant Group)
The Charlie Guard Poke at Mister Tuna. (Courtesy of TAG Restaurant Group)

Where: 3033 Brighton Blvd., RiNo
When: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday
5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
What: Charlie Guard ahi poke with avocado, seaweed and chili pepper soy dressing ($18)


Humboldt Farm Fish Wine

Where: 1700 Humboldt St., City Park West
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. 9 p.m. Sunday
What: Ahi tuna poke with poke sauce, sesame chip and sticky rice ($12.95)


Chowder Room
(Courtesy of Chowder Room)
(Courtesy of Chowder Room)

Where: 560 S. Broadway, Wash Park West
When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday
11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday
What: Hawaiian poke with tuna, roasted macadamia nuts and avocado


Departure
Tuna poke at Departure. (Courtesy of Departure)
Tuna poke at Departure. (Courtesy of Departure)

Where: 249 Columbine St., Cherry Creek
When: 4 p.m. to close Monday through Friday
11 a.m. to close Saturday and Sunday
What: Big-eye tuna poke with avocado, yuzu, chili and sesame crisp ($19)


Go Fish

Where: 1 Broadway, Baker
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday
Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday
Noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
What: Tuna poke and salmon poke ($13)


Hapa Sushi
(Courtesy Hapa Sushi)
(Courtesy Hapa Sushi)

Where: 2780 E. 2nd Ave., Cherry Creek
When: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday
11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday
11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

Where: 1514 Blake St., LoDo
When: Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday
11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

What: Poke Don: Fresh ahi or salmon tossed with onions, scallions, ginger, garlic, sesame seeds and poke sauce ($11, available with seared fish)

Taro poke (appetizer): Hawaiian-style tuna or salmon poke over a seared taro cake, finished with cool cucumbers and yuzu sour cream. ($14 for salmon, $14.50 for tuna)


Ignite

Where: 2124 Larimer St., LoDo
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to midnight Friday
10 a.m. to midnight Saturday
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
What: Ahi tuna poke bowl: Marinated ahi tuna, green onion, sesame, avocado, mango, pickled vegetable and steamed rice ($15.95)


Coming soon: QuickFish Poke Bar

@valeriefidan knows how to bowl out. #bowlsohard

A post shared by QuickFish (@quickfish) on

Where: Avanti Food & Beverage, 3200 N. Pecos St., Highland

As we mentioned earlier this month, QuickFish Poke Bar will move in where Bamboo Sushi is moving out at Avanti Food & Beverage this summer:

It’ll offer “chef-curated” poke bowls, plus the option to build your own bowl, running between $10 and $14.

Among the menu’s choices: the Bamboo Bowl, with MSC Oregon albacore, avocado, fried shallots, green onion, nori, sweet onion and green machine sauce, and the Fire Bowl, with Kodiak sockeye, red onion, kaiware, cucumber, candied Thai chili and creamy habanero masago sauce.


Also coming soon: Denver Poke Company and Poke House

Where: Denver Poke Company, 1550 Platte St., Highland
Poke House, 2420 17th St., Highland

The two restaurants are opening less than two blocks away from each other this summer. They’re also only a couple blocks away from Ohana Island Kitchen.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.