There have been a few restaurant and bar trends that took 2015 by storm—arcade bars, changes in tipping policies, new donut shops—but none were as prominent as poke. Poke shops seemed to open with increasing frequency as the year went on, some popping up in brand new spaces while others, like Ohana Poké Co. in Silver Lake, took over popular neighborhood spots under the same ownership.
It makes sense, in a way. Poke bars embody the kind of casual but curated experience we seek out in this city, a place where we can customize our food (tofu! brown rice! seaweed salad!) depending on our mood. Poke is healthy, for the most part, and embraces the trend of "meals in a bowl" that has also gained steam this past year. But how much poke does LA really need? And how much are restaurants willing to charge for the trend? Poke used to be a relatively inexpensive meal; now, some restaurants are putting a gourmet spin on it and charging upwards of $15 for a medium-sized bowl.
Still, new poke bars keep opening, and will continue to do so until we decide we're done with it. If you're not over 2015's most prevalent trend, here are three new poke places to try:
Blue Poke and Bar (Little Tokyo): Taking over the space of Little Tokyo Izakaya Kaba, Blue Poke and Bar keeps it traditional by having you create your own bowl: pick a base of rice or salad, choose your fish, then add on with different flavor options (like green sauce or ponzu) and two sides. Finish with toppings that range from wasabi to green onions. If a poke bowl isn't enough, the eatery has kept a small izakaya menu to pay tribute to the former occupants, with items like soft shell crab to round out your meal. Stop by for happy hour (daily 4-7pm) for $3 sake and draft beer, $4 wine and $3-$5 bites.
Okipoki (Downtown): A departure from other poke shops that have opened up this year, Okipoki bucks the usual system of standing in line to pick from fish, rice and topping selections behind a glass counter. Instead, diners sit around a u-shaped bar and choose from a curated menu of gourmet poke bowls, like Coco Bae (scallops, coconut lime, kaffir oil and serrano) and Lomi Lomi (salmon, kimchi and tomato pico de gallo, roe and macadamia nuts). Don't expect massive chunks of seafood in your bowl—while the scallops, tuna, salmon and yellowtail are all incredibly fresh, they're not as plentiful as other poke bars. With bowls averaging $13, you're paying for quality, not quantity.
Poké Bar (Studio City): If you think this poke shop sounds familiar, it's because the chain has rapidly expanded across LA since opening its first poke bar in Hollywood. The small storefront recently opened in Studio City, and offers small, medium and large bowls of poke to hungry Valley dwellers. After picking a size, choose a base (white or brown rice, organic spring mix or tortilla chips), poke ranging from original tuna to tofu poke, and extras like seaweed salad or miso soup.
What do you think of the poke trend? Had enough or want even more options? Let us know in the comments below!