POKEPOKE, Changle Lu

  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
18 Changle Lu Lane 339
There’s a new contender in the world of raw fish and rice, and their game is on point. Poke is still holding strong in popularity amongst this city’s dwellers, so we’re not surprised that this joint has popped up to give us more. We go to Poke Poke wondering whether it’ll be able to hold its own against Little Catch’s expert bowls, and as it turns out, it can.

Poke Poke’s space is a little nook near the corner of Changle Lu and Xiangyang Lu. Well done on the interior: slightly quirky and inviting, with mosaic tiles in shades of blue, fish decor swimming on the walls, a glowing neon ‘We (heart) Poke’ sign above the till, and a counter lled with fresh cuts of salmon and tuna, crab legs, scallops, and bright bowls of orange tobiko roe and pink salmon roe on ice. It’s even got a walk-up window so you can poke-NOM-go.

Poke Poke’s bowls are built upon the base ingredients of ‘authentic’ Hawaiian poke: fish, salt, native seaweed and chopped nuts. So, all of the bowls include the café’s take on those elements: a base of sushi rice plus seaweed, soy sauce (salt), cashews, raw onion, sesame seeds, and scallions. Choose from two types of seafood, with the option of adding a third for 18-20RMB, and four flavours: Original, Spicy Sambal, Wasabi Pomelo and Orange Mayo. Plus, there are some interesting add-ons like shisho cucumber and soft-boiled egg (10RMB and 5RMB).

We love the strong sesame flavour of the saucy Original, for which you choose salmon, tuna, Argentina prawn, or get them all (62/80RMB), plus avocado, nori and pearls of salmon roe. The Spicy Sambal with salmon and tuna is good, but not spicy enough. The tangy Wasabi Pomelo has squid, scallops, shisho, sliced egg, beetroot and salmon roe, and at first seems unforgivingly sweet, but gets damn tasty once the wasabi is well mixed with the other ingredients. Still, a little intense if you’re just getting one thing.

In an odd turn of events, the snack part of the menu is full of eats similar to those once found at former sandwich joint Bikini, a previous home of chef Steven Gong, who’s heading up the kitchen at Poke Poke. There’s a peanut butter, bacon, cheddar cheese and mushroom sandwich (38RMB); a hot dog with truffle oil and Emmental (55RMB) and so on. Sure, they sound good, but we’ve come here for poke – and aren’t really about to pair it with hot dogs and cheesy sandwiches. Still, when it does come down to the thing the café is named for, you won’t be disappointed.

Now, we’re not leaving Little Catch... we’re just saying we might be splitting our cravings between the two.

By Elysia Bagley

Venue name: POKEPOKE, Changle Lu
Opening hours: 10am-9pm daily
Metro: Shaanxi Nan Lu
English address: 18 Changle Lu Lane 339, near Xiangyang Bei Lu, Jingan district
Chinese address: 长乐路339弄18号襄阳北路