Aloha! Those familiar with Huntington Beach like myself may be surprised to find that hidden among the many shops and restaurants around the Huntington Beach is North Shore Poke Co., a small restaurant that offers poke bowls along with a refreshing Hawaiian vibe.
Upon first entering and viewing the décor, I was skeptical. The restaurant can definitely be considered as a “hole-in-the-wall,” simply furnished with wooden top tables, basic chairs, wooden bars along the wall and a couple tables outside the storefront. Their choice of decorations screams Hawaii, but also comes off a little tacky with their teal-green walls, wooden awnings and drum-like stools. The front of the house consists of nothing more than two drink coolers leading up to the cash register. Behind the counter, you can watch as they prep your poke bowl. But what were most unappealing were the exposed pipes and beams in the ceiling. In light of all this, I was greeted with a perky “Aloha!” and great customer service.
Despite the off-putting condition of the restaurant, North Shore Poke Co did not disappoint when it came to their poke. At $8.99 for a regular bowl — but prices will vary with the fish market — they offer two types of fish, tuna and salmon, which I consider as the most basic of raw, perfect for a first timer or long time sashimi lover (though widening their selection couldn’t hurt them). You can choose from brown rice, white rice and a cucumber salad bed as your side. I would recommend going with rice as a small cucumber salad comes with your poke bowl. For $1 each, you can add a variety of add-ons; avocado, macadamia nuts, masago (smelt eggs), ginger, Daikon (Japanese radish), Ogo (Hawaiian seaweed) and mango.
What makes North Shore Poke Co’s poke bowls special is the different flavors from which you can choose to season your tuna or salmon. They offer five options: Pipeline, a traditional shoyu (soy sauce) flavor, Waimea, a spicy mango flavor, Sunset, their secret spicy flavor, Haleiwa, a wasabi blend and Off The Wall, their chef’s special blend. They will also ask you how spicy you want your fish, too, if you choose a spicy flavor. Sweet, spicy, salty — they literally have something for everyone’s tastes.
I decided on tuna over white rice with Sunset as my flavoring and I also added masago. After a short wait of no more than 15 minutes, I was finally able to satisfy my poke. The thing about tuna is that you can see right away if it’s fresh or not from the color, and my tuna was a beautiful deep red, indicating prime freshness, which contrasted against the green onions mixed among the chunks of fish. On top of the poke was a large spoonful of bright orange masago, which added the texture I wanted to the fish; however, the amount was a little depressing considering that I paid an extra dollar for it.
Although I am no connoisseur of tuna, the fish was delicious, the pieces melted with each bite and there were no nasty sinews getting stuck between my teeth. The sauce complemented the fish well; tangy and just spicy enough that you don’t end up sucking in your teeth by the time you’re finished eating. Sunset is definitely safe for those who cannot handle spicy foods well. The cucumber salad that came on the side worked well to serve as a buffer after a few bites of fish as if cleaning your palette. I had a few pieces of fish left at the end while my friend had some rice leftover, so I would say the fish to rice ratio is decent. I had considered upgrading to a large bowl for $2 more, but the regular was the perfect amount, leaving my stomach feeling more than content.
I went to North Shore for the sole purpose of getting myself some poke, but poke is not the only item on their menu. While I settled for a regular poke bowl, they have a Surfer’s Combo, in which you get to choose two flavors for your fish starting at $9.99 for the regular size. They also serve ahi tuna poke tacos, ahi tuna sandwiches, sashimi and fresh oysters.
North Shore also offers Hawaiian shaved ice, Haupia Pie and North Shore Blondies for dessert for those who are looking for something sweet after their poke. And for those who want a drink other than water, they carry Coke products, Hawaiian Sun drinks, tropical coconut water ice tea, tropical lemonade, Kona red and ZICO Coconut Water.
North Shore Poke Co is a poke lover’s dream come true. Even though the add-ons are overpriced and the restaurant is little gaudy, if you’re looking for fresh fish at a very reasonable price, look no further. Mahalo!