By Rachel Verbits, September 2016 Issue.
Summer dining can be tricky. How do you decide what’s for dinner when it’s 115 degrees outside? Our answer: Head for the ocean!
So, naturally, the palates at Echo set their sails for the newest and freshest addition to the local cuisine scene and dropped anchor at Ahipoki Bowl in Scottsdale, on the southeast corner of Scottsdale and Thomas roads. The California-based restaurant chain that boasts fast-casual Hawaiian fusion all centered on raw, sushi-grade fish.
Poke (pronounced poh-keh), a Hawaiian favorite, refers to the raw fish salad that’s traditionally mixed with such fresh ingredients as onions, garlic, sesame seeds, soy sauce and served alone (like a cross between sushi and ceviche).
This coastal kitchen draws inspiration for the classic Hawaiian recipe and offers ingredients “sourced from the freshest and highest quality ingredients” they can find for their signature bowls and salads.
Walking into Ahipoki Bowl, diners are immediately welcomed by ocean-centric décor and a wall-sized menu with step-by-step instructions on how to create the perfect poke masterpiece for your palate.
While the menu makes ordering a breeze, the staff is ready and willing to answer questions and offer suggestions for customizing your bowl because, as you’ll soon discover, the combination possibilities are endless.
As a first-timer, I had some questions, and the employees were knowledgeable, friendly and helpful – even during the bustling lunch hour.
1. Rice, or Nah?
In Chipotle-style fashion, the first – and easiest – selection customers are faced with is which base they’d like. Selections include rice (white or brown), salad or mix of both and, in my attempt to discover everything Ahipoki Bowl has to offer, I shamelessly opted to try one of each.
2. Choose Your Scoops
The next step, choosing scoops of raw fish and seafood options, was overwhelming for me at first, since the selections here range from safe and familiar to exotic and new.
A deconstructed sushi roll is the best way to think of the options here, and I quickly learned that the raw options include tuna, spicy tuna, salmon, albacore and yellowtail and shrimp – but scallops and octopus are all cooked offerings.
I chose the salmon, which was velvety and flavorful, as well as the octopus and yellowtail, which were incredibly fresh, light and completely free of any fishy taste. (Get your mind out of the gutter).
3. Get Saucey
Moving down the line, you then have the choice of house-made sauce: house, house spicy, spicy creamy or sweet citrus. I chose the creamy spicy, which was exceptional and added just the right amount of bite without overpowering the delicate fish.
4. Toppings (even for bottoms)
The next step on the process is a wide range of healthy extras that give you the opportunity to really make your dish one of a kind. The fresh toppings were well-stocked and ranged from edamame, crab meat, masago (roe of capelin), green onions, Daikon sprouts, jicama, seaweed salad, cucumber, ginger and wasabi.
I noticed most people piled their bowls high with every option, so I did the same, and was pleased with the variety of both flavor and texture. Avocado is unsurprisingly a dollar extra, but worth it. And if you’re looking for a vegetarian or vegan option, the staff recommends two generous scoops of avocado instead of the seafood selections, for no additional charge.
Nestled right up next to the fresh toppings is the dry toppings, which include sesame seeds, crispy onions, chili flakes and roasted seaweed. I requested sesame seeds for added crunch.
To wash everything down, Ahipoki Bowl offers your standard soft drinks as well as green tea, a creamy and perfectly sweetened Thai iced tea and an aptly named “tropical drink,” which is refreshing and fruity, with hints of mango and pineapple.
As you move your way to the register to pay for your poke masterpiece, you won’t be able to ignore the Macaron ice cream sandwiches that are available in every color (and, I’m assuming, flavor) of the rainbow. Good luck resisting one of these decadent desserts – at least the rest of your meal was low cal.
Poke has been a staple in Hawaii for as long as anyone can remember, but only recently has it begun gaining popularity throughout the other 49 states – and beyond. People can’t seem to get enough of it, and after visiting Ahipoki Bowl in Scottsdale, I can see why.
Scottsdale: 2805 N. Scottsdale Road
Chandler: 820 N. 54th St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.