NBC: The Surfer’s Sashimi- How Hawaiian Poke Conquered the Mainland

NBC (by Sarah Bennett):

The lunchtime line at Pokéworks in Midtown Manhattan has been constant since it opened three months ago. Every weekday, New Yorkers wearing puffy coats and woolen hats spill out of the tiny storefront, waiting for the chance to order a customized bowl of chopped raw fish atop a mound of sticky rice.

Poke, the Hawaiian invention ubiquitous on the islands, where it serves as the unofficial state snack, might seem like an odd meal to pair with a frigid East Coast winter. But over the last few years, the traditional dish — which tops fresh, lightly marinated seafood with condiments like limu and roasted kukui nuts — has transformed from pre-batched versions available by the pound at Hawaii’s beach-side liquor and grocery stores into the United States’ next build-your-own, meal-in-a-bowl movement.

Enjoying something Hawaiian in New York helps transport the mind a bit, to a place more beachfront,” Pokéworks partner Kevin Hsu told NBC News. “The moment you sit in your office and you’re digging through a poke bowl, you feel like you’re on vacation.

Nostalgia for Hawaiian vacations may be one reason why the hunger for poke has grown so great in such a short amount of time, but poke has been quietly mounting a mainstream takeover ever since its invention.

To ancient Hawaiians, cutting up the catch of the day and tossing it with salt and seaweed harvested from the ocean was an exercise in sustenance. Subsequent waves of contact and immigration — from Captain Cook to the sugar plantation era — influenced poke by infusing it with sauces, toppings, and flavors of Europe, Japan, and other Asian countries.

The dish was first introduced to many Americans via fine-dining chefs, who — following the Hawaiian-food-obsessed lead of Hawaii native son Sam Choy in the ’90s — found poke an approachable Asian-fusion appetizer, an alternative to crudo and ceviche. Sushi had already been introduced to American palates by then and many diners felt comfortable (and classy) eating Asian-style raw fish. Poke was a logical next step.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that fast-casual spots dedicated to serving authentic Hawaiian-style poke first opened on the mainland. In Southern California, where many of these early businesses opened, bringing flavors from the Pacific to the masses was less about launching a trend and more of a natural outgrowth of the region’s historic population of Hawaiians and native Islanders.

Aside from a few dissenters, Hawaiians seem excited that the “surfer’s sashimi” is spreading to new audiences across the country, even if it’s at the hands of a non-traditional delivery method. As a cuisine that has itself evolved over centuries of shifting cultural influence, Hawaiian food seems ever-ripe for re-interpretations, which is good because the poke revolution shows no signs of slowing down.

Tsukiji countdown: Clock ticking on Tokyo’s famed fish market

How America’s first 3 star Michelin sushi chef, Masa Takayama, serves his sushi

Eater’s Kat Odell visited America’s first 3 star Michelin sushi chef, Masa Takayama, to see how the eponymous chef serves his sushi. Having cut fish for three decades in his restaurant Masa in New York City, and having shaped American sushi culture like no other, we get a detailed look at how the chef serves his dishes and why they are served the way they are.

The restaurant is also America’s most expensive, offering a truly classic Japanese omakase experience with a twist.

FoodBeast: The Only Sushi Cheat Sheet You’ll Ever Need

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FoodBeast (by Peter Pham):

Unless you’re an expert for aficionado, sushi can be scary. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what kind of sushi to try first.

Take Lessons created a sushi cheat sheet that details all the popular rolls, ingredients and etiquettes. Customers can now have an idea of what’s appropriate or inappropriate when dining at an authentic sushi restaurant. They even threw popular sushi-centric vocabulary for those interested in immersing themselves.

Check out the graphic below:

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New York restaurants must now freeze fish before serving it raw

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New York City will now face a new rule when it comes to serving raw fish. The New York Times reports, regardless of how fresh the fish is, restaurants must freeze it for an extended period of time in order to prevent bacteria and parasites.

FoodBeast (by Peter Pham):

While most places are already doing this as a precaution, the process is now law. Outbreaks of salmonella have caused major concerns in the past few years. The new rule will put those fears to ease among consumers who enjoy eating raw fish.

Starting in August, fish must be kept frozen anywhere from 15 hours to an entire week depending on the restaurants’ freezer temperature. Certain seafoods like shellfish and farm-raised fish, however, are exempt from the freezing laws.

23-year-old chef Julian Fukue hits it big with “PokiNometry”, his create-your-own-poke bowl restaurant

 

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Food Beast (by Peter Pham):

Julian Fukue introduced the concept of poke to a completely new audience this past year. The 23-year-old chef hails from Orange County, CA, where his famous PokiNometry restaurant is based from. Fukue brought the Hawaiian dish of ahi tuna into the mainstream with his innovative Poke Bowls. The tuna and rice bowls are what made Fukue arguably one of the youngest entrepernuers in the OC poke industry.

When the humble poke-themed restaurant opened, Fukue set a goal for himself of 100 bowls sold each day.  In the weeks to come, however, the bowls began selling like mad. Thanks to word-of-mouth, PokiNometry became instantaneously famous and began selling around 800-1,000 bowls a day.

PokiNometry-Menu

Fukue came from a restaurant background. When he was a kid, his mother purchased Tustin-based Tommy’s Sushi. There, Fukue learned the ins and outs of the restaurant game starting from the bottom as a dishwasher and working his way up to sushi chef. One dish, in particular, stood out for him: the Poke Bowls.

The concept of the PokiNometry is similar to Chipotle, where customers would line up and assemble their bowls in a customizable fashion. The quick-service restaurant eventually became so busy that Fukue had to close the restaurant down in order to restock and train more employees. He reopened weeks later.

Fukue is set to open a second location of PokiNometry in Hollywood.

 

Staggering servings of salmon roe are waiting for you at these four Tokyo restaurants

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RocketNews 24:

There are a couple of distinct price tiers to seafood in Japan. Squid and octopus tend to be very budget-friendly, with a step up in price for sashimi-grade tuna and salmon. Among the most premium offerings of all is where you’ll find salmon roe, or ikura as it’s known in Japanese.

Due to its high cost, ikura is usually served in modest quantities, sometimes seeming more like a garnish than a legitimate component of the meal. However, that’s not the case at these four Tokyo restaurants, which dish up such generous portions that their ikura literally overflows the bowl.

As one of Japan’s most popular dining websites, Guru Navi (short for “Gourmet Navigation”) will let you filter restaurant search results by a wide variety of parameters. Recently, though, the site made a special point of highlighting a group of four restaurants that are known for their overflowing ikura bowls.

Referred to as ikura koboredon, the decadent dish is most commonly seen on the northern island of Hokkaido, the surroundings waters of which serve as the source for the lion’s share of Japan’s salmon roe. All four of these restaurants are located inside Tokyo, though, which means they’re within easy striking distance if you’re craving some ikura after a day of sightseeing, work, or school in Japan’s capital.

Let’s dive face-first into this collection of ikura goodness.

1. Hokkaido Shiretoko Gyojo /北海道知床漁場

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Address: Tokyo-to, Toshima-ku, Minami Ikebukuro 1-13-21, Izumiya Building basement level 1 / 東京都豊島区南池袋1-13-21 和泉屋ビルB1
Open 5 p.m.-midnight


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Just opened in late February, this Ikebukuro restaurant takes its name from Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, considered to have some of the tastiest ikura in the country. Ordinarily, the restaurant’s full-size ikura rice bowl, called the Nore Sore!! Nannmmara Kobore Ikuradon will cost 1,980 yen (US $16.80), with half-sizes available for 1,280 yen. As part of its opening campaign, though, customers can print out or display the couponhere and get a half-size bowl absolutely free!

 

2. Totoshigure / ととしぐれ

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Address: Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya, 3-13-7, Godo Building basement level 1 / 東京都渋谷区渋谷3-13-7 五常ビルB1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-5 a.

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Totoshigure has the cheapest menu-priced overflowing salmon roe bowl of any restaurant on the list, as the otsubo ikura no kobore meshi will only set you back 890 yen. If ikura’s not your thing the restaurant’s uni (sea urchin) bowl is similarly staggering in size.

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3. Iroriya / いろり家

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Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-11-11, Ginza Sambankan 2 basement level 2 / 東京都中央区銀座3-11-11 銀座参番館2 B1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-4 a.m.; Weekends 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

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Moving from youthful Shibuya to blueblood Ginza, Iroriya’s profile was raised when it was mentioned on the cover of a popular adult magazine last year. You won’t find anything scandalous inside, although the massive funajo meshi ikura bowls, in prices ranging from 2,480 to 3,980 yen depending on size, will stimulate your appetite.

4. En / 炎

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Address: Tokyo-to, Edogawa-ku, Funabori 1-7-17, Crystal Funabori 1st floor /東京都江戸川区船堀1-7-17 クリスタル船堀1F
Open Monday-Thursday, Sunday, holidays 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday-Saturday and days preceding holidays 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

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Finally, we come to En, where the recommended way to eat a mountain of ikura is with a dollop of fiery wasabi added. Like many of the other examples on this list, the 1,280-yen kobore ikuradon seems like a deal that’s too good to be true. With portions this big, can the restaurant actually be making money off the dish?

Possibly not. En’s owner, who was born in the city of Hakodate on Hokkaido, says he’s prepared to lose money on his giant salmon roe servings, and that his real goal is for the people of Tokyo to come away with a renewed appreciation of the regional cuisine of his home prefecture. As a matter of fact, so seriously does he take the task that he personally scoops the ikura into the bowls that are delivered to eagerly waiting customers.

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Of course, the better time customers are having, the more likely they are to order a glass of beer or bottle of sake to go along with the loss-leading ikura bowl. But hey, ikura and sake go great together, so in the end it’s a win-win for all involved.

All-You-Can-Eat Sushi in Tokyo for only 1050 Yen (US $13)… (*But per-plate penalty if you can’t finish)

RocketNews 24:

While a popular format for sushi restaurants in some foreign countries like America, it’s much more difficult to find all-you-can-eat sushi in Japan than one would think.

If you are in Japan and are looking to gorge yourself on maguro, saba or whatever else floats your sushi boat, look no further than Tabehodai Sushi Club, a little place in Ueno, Tokyo that has all-you-can-eat sushi for only 1050 yen (US $13).

The restaurant is said to be popular with foreigners and, during the busiest hours, has a line outside the door on any given day.

Review:

Anyone who has been to all-you-can-eat in Japan is likely aware that it’s common for customers to be restricted to 1-2 hours until they need to clear out or pay extra to extend their stay. Tabehodai Sushi Club surprisingly has no such time limit but customers must pay a penalty fee for each dish they order but fail to eat—70 yen for nigirizushi and 120 yen for makizushi or gunkanmaki.

I sat down at my table, was handed an order sheet and proceeded to fill it out with my favorites: ama-ebi, ikura, maguro, shime-saba, and so on.

The sushi came 15 minutes later and, for my first taste test, I plopped the ikura (salted salmon roe) nigirizushi into my mouth and…

…hrm…perhaps a little flaccid…

Okay, so how about the uni (sea urchin)?

…hrm…perhaps too small to tell how it actually tastes…

Alright then, let’s try the ama-ebi (sweet shrimp)!

…!!! Okay, not bad at all! They might want to tone down the wasabi though…

Unfortunately, that ama-ebi was the highlight of my Sushi Club experience, but really, that’s only to be expected given the price.

Basically, if you’re looking for quality over quantity at a reasonable price (which, I guess, is what all-you-can-eat is all about), then save some room in your stomach and head over to Ueno for copious amounts of second-rate sushi!

 

・Store Information
Restaurant: Tabehoudai Sushi Club,
Address: 6-13-4 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00-22:00
Open throughout the year

Photos: RocketNews24

 

Creatively designed sushi roll towels give daily life a little extra flavor

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RocketNews 24:

When made properly, sushi rolls can be a pretty colorful and nicely designed food. There’s the white of the rice contrasting with the black/dark green of the seaweed, and then there are the colorful main ingredients, such as bright-orange ikura, green cucumber, yellow egg, and deep-red tuna. Maybe it’s this presentation that has drawn many companies to make products modeled after everyone’s favorite raw fish roll.

In the past year, a couple of brands have come out with incredibly cute and creative sushi roll towels. Unfolded, they look just like interestingly patterned towels, but bundled up, they turn into sushi rolls that look so delicious you’ll want to take a bite!

Last year, Japanese company Geodesign came out with these adorable hand towels called Norimaki Towels, named after the long, uncut, seaweed-wrapped, sushi rolls they are designed to resemble.

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▼ These towels come in traditional Japanese norimaki flavors: Tuna, cucumber and natto (fermented soy beans).

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▼ There is also a tamago-yaki variation, where the roll is wrapped in cooked egg, rather than seaweed.

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▼ The gift set of three towels comes in this cute bamboo box. It makes them look even more realistic!

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Recently, Tel Aviv-based design company OTOTO, known for their stylish and creative kitchen tools, have released their own version of sushi roll towels in the form of dish towels.

▼ The towels come with simple directions on how to fold them into sushi rolls, and they arrive in a case designed to make the sushi look like they’re sprinkled in sesame seeds. Cute!

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As sushi rolls are more common and offered in a greater variety in Western countries (in Japan they tend to primarily eat nigiri style), it’s understandable that the OTOTO version would have a much wider selection of “flavors.”

▼ Flavors include salmon roll, tuna roll, crab roll and tamago roll.

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Both the Japanese– and Western-style sushi roll towels are adorable and we want all of them. The hand towels would undoubtedly be great conversation starters and the dish towels would make post-dinner clean up so much more tolerable! Just be careful not to use them when you’re really hungry or you could find yourself with a mouthful of cotton!