Welcome to Food Envy, where we’ll highlight different dishes from Time Out Market Miami that we think you’re going to love—partly because we do. This week, we’re feeling the Aloha vibes and tucking into a big bowl of sweet and spicy salmon poke from Hapa Kitchen & Eatery.
What is poke? I thought I knew until I had to explain the dish to my mother, who calls anything with raw fish in it sushi. I told her it was like sushi, only deconstructed and without veggie fillings or garnishes. You also don’t dip it in soy sauce as you might do with maki—which is the only kind of sushi she recognizes. I then proceeded to show her a picture of Hapa Kitchen & Eatery’s sweet and spicy salmon poke, thinking a visual might help explain what I couldn’t. My meal there, after all, was the genesis of this unproductive conversation that left us both feeling very hungry.
The truth is, I couldn’t explain what poke was because none of the stuff I’d tried before, though tasty in its own right, was actual poke from Hawaii—where the dish originated. Hapa’s is real-deal—chef/owner Neil Sullivan makes it just the way it’s served in Oahu, where he grew up.
If you’re accustomed to the mound of toppings you get at the fast-casual spots around town, Hapa’s might take some getting used to. Theirs is a simple preparation of fresh fish (delivered daily, according to Sullivan) and housemade sauce, which you can get served on its own or over your choice of brown rice, white rice or quinoa. That’s it. There’s no avocado or side of ginger or even the sprinkling of crispy fried onions I admittedly adore.
While I did initially miss all the frills of the familiar bowls, all it took was one bite of supremely fresh salmon to change my mind about poke. It helps that Hapa’s bowls come with a generous half-pound of fish dressed in its signature spicy sauce. With so much tasty seafood at my fingertips, garnishes were the last thing on my mind.
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