Poke is trending. Pronounced poh-keh, the Hawaiian diced-fish dish is on the front foot in Australia. And like any trend, it’s up for interpretation.
Poké Me launched in Melbourne late last year, but on the back of a successful Royal Croquet Club pop-up, opened its first flagship store in Adelaide in August. It’s just the beginning, though. Co-founders Leigh Morgan, Christian Robertson and Toby Yap are striking while the iron’s hot, with plans to roll out 20 stores Australia-wide in the next year.
“Poke has innovated a space [in the market] that hadn’t really been touched before,” says Robertson. “So we thought, ‘let’s innovate poke’.” Taking the bare bones of the Hawaiian dish, Poké Me hones in on a “Japanese flavour spectrum”.
Essentially, it’s a deconstructed sushi bowl: you start with a set-price protein (tuna, salmon, chicken or tofu); choose a rice, soba noodle or “green” base; then add toppings, sauces and seasonings. For once, avocado isn’t extra.
“Poke in the US is very sweet [because of] all their dressings,” says Morgan, “and they use canned corn and pineapple”. His version relies on punchier, fresh flavours from sauces developed in-house. Ingredients include yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit), togarashi (chilli-sesame powder) and wasabi.
Sushi "doughnuts" are a snack-size alternative. The entire menu is available on UberEATS.
“It’s built for allergies,” says Robertson. Everything is gluten-free and vegan, bar the obvious fish and chicken, and two mayonnaises (which will soon be made vegan-friendly).
“We’ve invested a lot of time [making] the whole process as efficient as possible,” Morgan says. “You walk through as your bowl’s being built. Being a health-food-based business, people want to know exactly what’s going in their body.”
The fast-paced, in-and-out concept lends itself to Gawler Place’s corporate crowd. “To stand here at lunchtime and see five or six thousand people walk past … we needed something here,” says Morgan.
The interior, like the menu, bears Japanese influence: dark features and wooden furnishings, with a splash of colour from a pink feature wall. The concrete Caesarstone benchtop houses a purpose-built fridge that will become standard in all stores.
Drinks wise, the Poké Me brand includes Konnichiwater – a house-made, fruit-infused “detox” water. Keep your bottle for half-price refills. Morgan’s own juice brand, Utonic, is also available.
Poké Me’s “blog-like” social media presence is a health-focused education tool for customers. “It’s standing for something more than just fast-food and money,” says Morgan.
92 Gawler Place, Adelaide
Mon to Sun 11am–9pm