New dish en­trances Auck­land lunch­ers.

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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!”

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