It seems that a year ago, no one had heard of poke. Now the Hawaiian raw-fish salad is popping up everywhere. It’s creeping onto cafe menus, into our news feeds and, soon, food courts all over Australia. The latter will be helped by Jason Roberts (ex-Bistro Moncur executive chef) and Jack Fonteyn (Jacks Newtown), who opened Poku – a poke takeout they hope will soon lead to an empire.
“We are definitely opening more. We've got plans to roll it out this year,” says Fonteyn. “A gazillion,” says Roberts.
Don’t assume that this is just a fast-food chain in quality or execution. Roberts is determined to set a new fast-food precedent by focusing on sustainability, health and produce. “I want to build a community of like-minded people who want to eat well and exercise, and I've always loved the idea of being supportive of our farmers who do sustainable fishing.” Specifically, working with Southern Fresh Seafood for Ora king salmon, Hiramasa kingfish and wild tuna, and Matt Brown for fruit and veg.
As far as freshness and health goes, Roberts and Fonteyn have picked a good template. Poke is generally made with mostly raw ingredients, seasoned with Japanese and Pacific Island dressings. Here, minus the Pacific influence, it’s no different. Pick your protein (salmon, kingfish, tuna or sweet potato), and then add a base (kale, zucchini noodles, bamboo-infused rice or sweet potato noodles) and your topping. Or you can choose from one of the signature bowls such as the house special with salmon, togarashi mayo, orange zest, furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning usually on top of rice), green onion, crispy shallots, avocado, toasted sesame seeds and raw kale; or the som-tum-style kingfish “Buddha” bowl.
“If everything is fresh, you can't go wrong,” says Roberts.
In the future, the duo will be stretching the definition of poke through monthly collaborations with different chefs, brands and restaurants. “We could even have the Trump bowl or something like that,” jokes Roberts.
The next stores, which Fonteyn says are close to opening (without confirming where), will follow the same formula, down to the original Giant design. That means a lot of sandy timbers, sculpted without edges, so they feel wave-like and oceanic.
Mon to Fri 9am–4pm