New dish entrances Auckland lunchers.
There’s something about merlot
It popped up in High St last November, bringing with it a ray of Hawaiian sunshine. Shaka Bowl Poké offers an Antipodean take on a dish long a street staple in Hawaii, the Poké.
Shaka Bowl Poké is the brainchild of Justin Fong, Jade Tan, and Rufus Chan. Poké (pronounced poh-keh) is a simple raw fish salad and it caught the attention of the trio when they were travelling in the US.
“We’d stopped off in Los Angeles and tried our first Poké when we were there. We loved it and thought it would be great to bring it to New Zealand.”
Made from tuna and salmon and paired with rice, vegetables and sauces, Poké is sometimes called “unwrapped sushi”. As it was unknown in New Zealand, the trio soon realised they may have happened on a great idea.
“I worked in the CBD and could never find anything healthy for lunch,” says Fong. “There was a real hole in the market when it came to healthy, fresh, fast food.”
Although none of the trio was a chef, they did their research and started experimenting with Poké recipes and trying them out on friends and family upon their return home. Reactions were universally favourable, so they decided to test reactions at some of Auckland’s popular night markets.
“People really responded well to the dish but, as a lot of the food at the night markets is fried and a bit unhealthy, it wasn’t the best fit for us,” says Fong.
It was time to up their game. Tan (who is Fong’s partner) is a product designer by trade so, once they secured the lease on the small High St store, she was able to work her magic on a fresh and tasty fit-out.
With recipes perfected and design completed, the doors of Shaka Bowl Poké were open at the end of 2016. The reception has been extremely positive, with an unequivocal five-star rating on Facebook and lunchtime queues.
Fong is the head chef, with two additional staff coming in for the lunch rush. As well as the design, Tan also is in charge of social media and Chan does the accounts.
They’ve kept it simple – there are only three dishes on the menu (salmon, tuna and tofu Poké) but customers can individualise their orders with sauce (including the eye-watering wasabi aioli) and fresh salad vegetables.
The fish is fresh every day (linecaught tuna and Marlborough salmon) and any extra is taken home in the evening.
“I’ve eaten fish every day since we opened and I’m still not sick of it,” laughs Fong. The customers appreciate being able to see their orders prepared while they wait.
“People love to see the bowls made in front of them. We have a lot of regulars who usually like to try something a little different each time they visit,” Fong explains.
The trio are excited to have been Auckland’s Poké trailblazers, says Fong.
“We’re sure more people will start selling Poké in Auckland soon, but we got here first. We’ve had a very lucky start!”