By Vivienne Pearson
Consider this story your guide to a new eating concept in town: the poké bowl.
Poké is the Hawaiian name for diced and marinated raw fish. A Poké Bowl is a dish of poké combined with rice (or noodles), salad ingredients and delicious sauces. *Vegetarian/vegan readers – don’t turn the page – vegan options are available!*
Poké bowls are a new concept in this area but are not elsewhere. A more westernised version of the traditional, simply seasoned fish has been big in Hawaii and the east coast of the US (especially LA) for more than a decade. More recently, Sydney and Melbourne have caught onto the trend.
Opened in the last month, Finn Poké is introducing the trend to Byron Bay. As with anything new, it can take a while to feel comfortable with what’s on offer and how to order. ‘It is easy once you get the hang of it, but my role is quite educational at the moment,’ says co-owner Joelle Boehnert.
The shortcut way to enjoying your first poké bowl is to simply order one of the set ‘signature’ bowls. These have been curated by the team’s LA-based chef Charles Olalia, so are guaranteed to be balanced in terms of both taste and nutrition.
Once you’ve got the idea, you can let yourself loose on the completely customisable bowls. Think of it as an exercise in layering.
You start with a base – choose from rice (a mix of brown and black rice), noodles (buckwheat with spiralised cucumber and daikon for added flavour) or a kale slaw (with citrus oil for added zing). If you can’t quite choose, you can even ask for a half-half style base.
You then choose your preferred protein. Raw fish options include salmon, kingfish and tuna, all sashimi graded and supplied by Bay Seafoods. Vegetarian options are organic tofu and roasted beetroot.
You then choose ‘add-ons’. These include vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices and crunchy toppings. You can choose five within the set price, or you can add as many as you like for extra cost. ‘Premium’ add-ons, such as macadamias, finger lime and pickled shitake, will always bump up the price a little.
Then, the final layer is the sauce, with tasty options such as Green Coco Sauce (a coconut and avocado dressing), Spicy Yuzu (a zesty citrus sauce) and Ginger Ponzu (soy, fresh ginger and rice vinegar). For those ordering a custom bowl who are a little unsure about their sauce choice: ‘We offer to serve it on the side so you can control how much you use,’ says Joelle.
I followed my own advice (a rare event!) by going with ‘The Finn’ signature bowl, containing salmon, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, orange segments, bean sprouts and ponzu sauce. I opted for a half-half base, which was ideal as I got to try the zingy kale slaw as well as have the more substantial rice option. It was perfect for a sunny winter Byron lunch – super fresh, totally tasty and filling without weighing me down.
Like me, you may find yourself thinking more about Japan than Hawaii while ordering and eating your poké bowl*. This is unsurprising given the strong connections between the two.
You may also find yourself thinking about your next poké bowl creation – for there’s always another combination to try!
* Or if, like me, you have a Pokémon-obsessed child in your family, you might find yourself thinking about whether there is a connection between ‘pocket monsters’ and poké bowls. The answer is No but, if saying Yes helps encourage your child to eat more fish and salad, then go for it!
Finn Poké: 8 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay (the beach end of Fletcher), open 11am daily (closing 8–8.30pm in winter, longer hours planned for summer). Facebook: @finnpokebyron
Josh Torney and Joelle Boehnert
FinnPoke – Vivienne’sChoice – Bowl+Drink. Photo supplied