SERVING FRESH POKE BOWLS ON VENICE BOARDWALK
Los Angeles is all about trends—most often starting them but it is definitely a devotee of what’s cool. And its food scene is no different. For the last few years, poké, a raw fish salad originally served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, has been all the rage. While some know-it-alls may say that the poké is played out, new spots are popping up all over to the delight of ravenous diners, including Wild Poké on the Venice boardwalk.
A good source of protein, poké is great for people who want to let less meat or watch their carbs intake, as long as they lay off the rice that is often served with the popular dish. At Wild Poké, all bowls are gluten-free and dairy-free. Poké can be traced back to fisherman who seasoned the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack. While yellowfin tuna was most often used, you’ll see poké prepared with raw tuna, raw salmon, and even octopus.
While I’m currently addicted to “pocky”, which I’m sure was a misprint on the menu at Sushi Eyaki in Mid City, the fare at Wild Poké is tops on the west side. Unlike my favorite “pocky”, which comes off more like a salad than a traditional bowl, Wild Poké stands tall in Venice with its new chef-driven menu and premium, high-grade fish.
Feeding the masses from a little window just off the Venice Beach Boardwalk, Wild Poké made waves this summer by offering folks a delicious, fresh, fast and healthier alternative to all the nearby pizza and fried food. I was impressed with its high-grade fish delivered daily from premium distributor IMP who also supplies chic Nobu with its fish.
Wild Poké is the brainchild of owner Alok Chanani and Executive Chef Ryan Steed, who drew upon his years of fine dining restaurant experience and a personal passion for poké to create a menu that is refined, yet simple, focusing on maintaining high-quality, sustainable ingredients and flavors that are clean, bold and cohesive.
“I tried to come straight forward with what people like and what people want to order,” said Steed, who previously served as the Executive Chef at Santa Monica’s Hotel Shangri-LA. “We want people to enjoy really good food and have a great experience in one of the most eclectic places in Los Angeles.”
“We acknowledged the growth and increase of poké restaurant concepts in Los Angeles, and we wanted to create a new concept with a location, chef and product that was different and wilder – hence the name Wild Poké,” explained Chanani.
During our recent visit to Wild Poké, we had to take our grub to the beach as there just wasn’t anywhere to sit among the hungry horde waiting to get their poke on. That’s a good problem to have for any business and who is going to complain that they have to eat while looking out onto the beautiful Pacific Ocean or at all the interesting types at Venice Beach? You can’t get a better view. Although the guy riding his seat-less bike wearing only a thong was a bit TMI, even for Venice. But then again, that’s Venice Beach for you.
At Wild Poké, there are seven made-to-order bowl variations and there’s the option for guests to customize their own bowl from a selection of 17 toppings and mix-ins. After choosing a base of sushi rice, brown rice or kale salad, pick a protein from Ahi tuna, salmon, tofu or the daily Ocean Special and select your sauce(s): The OG – a traditional Shoyu; Creamy Sriracha; Chili Ponzu; Citrus Ponzu; Cilantro Sesame or Creamy Wasabi. The mix-ins include seaweed, avocado, edamame and a variety of chiles and fresh veggies, while toppings range from masago and crispy onion and garlic to furikake and macadamia nuts.
The bestselling bowls are the Tuna Fire with ahi-tuna, jalapeño, scallions, Fresno chili, masago, crispy garlic, sesame, and creamy sriracha, and the Crunch with salmon, crispy onion, crispy garlic, crunch house made chips, Miss Vickie’s Jalapeño Chips, Furikake and creamy sriracha. Both were wonderfully flavorful and very fresh tasting and I really enjoyed the heat of the Fire bowl.
“I love great food and I can’t think of anything more exciting than the restaurant world – Wild Poké really represents my lifestyle,” owner Chanani said. “There is a lot of love going into this, and ultimately, we are building something that showcases our personal passion: creating unique, fresh, healthy food that tastes absolutely incredible, keeps you in shape, and is affordable enough to eat every day. The Wild Poké team, from Chef Ryan on, is truly passionate about making beautiful delicious food for each and every guest.”
Another crowd pleasing bowl is the aptly named Venice bowl prepared with ahi-tuna, cucumber, seaweed, green onion, crispy garlic, crispy onion and chili ponzu, which really lives up to the neighborhood’s namesake.
But my favorite bowl was of my own creation. I opted for a mix of ahi tuna and salmon with kale salad and organic brown rice along with wasabi cream sauce and edamame, chili flakes, seaweed, Macadamia nuts, crispy onion, and Nori. It was absolutely delicious!
At $8.95 to $12.95 per bowl (small and large), this is great bang for your buck as the portions are very generous. We were sharing small bowls and thought they were full sized until we finally upped our game to the large and then were really wowed by the hefty portion.
“Our poke is healthy, affordable and easy to eat,” said Chef Steed. “The increased accessibility of poké and the variety of flavor, texture and combinations make it a mainstay in our foodie culture. Just like any type of cuisine, it will evolve over time, and we will evolve with it…in a wild way!”
Wild Poké is located at 1301 Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach. Open daily from 11am to 7pm. Call 310-314-0635.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: Wild Poké