Like many others, I’m no stranger to poké. The quintessential Hawaiian dish has been making its way all over North America lately, proving to be immensely popular in California before moving onto the East coast and now becoming a hot and trendy offering in cities like New York and Toronto.
While the latter certainly has no shortage of spots to grab the popular dish, there’s always room for more, and the newest kid on the block is Pokito, a quick-serve restaurant located in the heart of the fashion district, boasting a funky and fresh menu full of poké burritos and bowls.
“We’ve always had a passion for food and travel,” says Allen Tan, Pokito co-owner and co-founder of Toronto’s award-winning Me.N.U. Food Truck. “Every winter, we travel to the greatest street food cities in the world, learn from local chefs and make a commitment to bring our culinary discoveries back to Toronto.”
Uniquely curated with an international twist, and using ingredient pairings inspired by the team’s travels around the world, it’s currently taking the city by storm, as Torontonians flock to the Queen St. W location to see what all the fuss is about. Last weekend, we had the chance to check out the new hotspot for ourselves and as expected, we walked away mighty impressed with Toronto’s newest poké joint.
Upon entering the spacious location, we were greeted with a welcoming vibe from the restaurant’s friendly staff, who were eager to make our experience there a memorable one. Though Pokito does offer up several menu items that they’ve put together themselves, customers are encouraged to create their own bowl or burrito from scratch by picking their base and protein and then spicing it up with delicious and fresh toppings.
“We have delicately paired ingredients to ensure a gastronomic experience for our customers. Poké is all about balance,” adds Kenton Chan, Pokito co-owner, who has a proven track record of bringing innovative flavours by bringing global tea franchise Chatime and international fusion bakery Bake Code to Ontario. “However, we also believe the food we eat is an expression of our individuality, so we encourage our guests to customize their bowls and burritos and make every creation their own.”
Proteins range from salmon to tuna and shrimp to scallops, while bases come in the form of sushi rice, brown rice, mixed greens and soba noodles (the burritos, however, can only do sushi rice). After that’s, it’s up to your hearts desire as to what you want to put in your bowl/on your burrito.
For our visit, we went with two bowls. In the first (pictured above), we combined sashimi-grade tuna with sushi rice, edamame, green papaya, seaweed salad, mandarin oranges, crispy onions, seaweed, Hawaiian guacamole, Shoyu sesame oil and masago. The second one, meanwhile, had sashimi-grade salmon with sushi rice, edamame, sweet onion, Gochujang spicy mayo, seaweed, Hawaiian guacamole, pineapple chow, taro chips and crispy onions.
Right off the bat, let me just say that both bowls were excellent, with big, soft, tender chunks of fish that tasted extremely fresh. They weren’t drowning in sauce, either, which meant that the taste of both the salmon and tuna really came through. Served in generous portions, the fish, along with the toppings, made for more than enough of a meal that left us feeling full and satisfied once we were done.
As far as the toppings themselves go, it’s really up to you as to what you want to throw in there, but for what it’s worth, I particularly enjoyed the Hawaiian guacamole (a unique spin on the classic dip), while the crispy onions added some nice crunchiness to the bowl and the mandarin oranges gave the whole thing a bit of a tangy twist, which was very welcome. If spicy is your thing, go with the Gochujang spicy mayo as well, as it’ll give the fish some flavorful heat.
To finish things off, we were given another Hawaii-inspired treat: a Dole whip float. A recreation of the famous Disneyland dessert made with dairy-free pineapple soft serve and pineapple juice, it was a bit too sweet for my liking, but your mileage may vary depending on how much of a sugar rush you’re looking for.
Let’s get back to the poké though, because from what we experienced during our visit, Pokito is really onto something here. With affordable pricing, a vast array of customization options and ingredients that are funky, fresh and fun, Queen West’s new kid on the block should be just the thing that Torontonians are looking for if they’re in the mood for a healthy, quick and tasty meal – one that can be mixed and matched to their heart’s desire.
Newcomers and poké connoisseurs alike will find a lot to love about Pokito‘s offerings, and judging by the line up of hungry customers that was already populating the restaurant during its first week in business, we’re confident that they’ll become a city staple in no time.