It’s been sweeping up and down the West Coast, and America’s newest food craze has finally landed in Bellevue.
Poke, a Hawaiian dish which first made an impact on the mainland in California, exploded over the summer in Seattle and elsewhere.
Just two weeks ago Poke MIX opened in Bellevue Square, slinging the island-inspired dish out of an outdoor counter. Bee Meas, Poke MIX’s owner, said her desire to open the store was thanks to her time in Hawaii.
“My husband and I used to frequent the Hawaiian Islands, and my favorite thing to have there is poke,” Meas said. “We went to California and saw the concept moved there, and know we could do it up here.”
Poke (pronounced poke-ay) is Hawaiian for “cut” or “slice” and is a raw fish-based dish. At Poke MIX, customers can build their own poke bowls in a similar manner to Chipotle or Subway.
Start with a base (white or brown rice, chips or salad) choose two proteins (tuna, salmon, chicken, shrimp or tofu) add a mix-in like green or sweet onion, sauce it up with miso, shoyu or creamy spicy sauce and then choose from a bevy of toppings such as sesame seeds, masago fish roe, furikake seaweed flakes, pickled ginger, krab salad, avocado, edamame, wasabi or seaweed salad.
The last step? Dig in. Meas describes it sort of like a “deconstructed sushi roll.”
“This is a dish with a long history in Hawaii,” Meas said. “We brought a modern spin to it while still respecting the culture of the islands and the dish.”
A standard bowl sells for around $12, and the warm rice and cold toppings create an interesting dynamic of texture and temperature. The rice is only slightly sticky, the meat is generous and fresh (and sustainably harvested) and the sauces are superb. Toppings are all prepared fresh daily.
Larger bowls cost more, and the seaweed salad is an additional cost.
Meas worked with her cousin — a former chef at Nobu restaurant in Waikiki — to design the menu and perfect it. Her perfect bowl is a salmon and shrimp bowl with the creamy, spicy house-sauce on a bowl of rice with all the toppings.
“I’m a total foodie, so seeing this as something people have discovered and now want in our area is awesome,” she said. “Poke has just been crazy. California has more than 80 locations where you can get it and it’s expanded up the coast.”
She said the recent popularity is exciting, but not all that surprising.
“It’s always been there, but not accessible to most people,” Meas said. “It’s not new. But it’s healthy, fast and all about convenience. No wonder it has taken off.”
She said she was nervous in putting together the menu that Hawaiians might not like her spin on it. The response she has received has been in the other direction, however.
“There’s been great positive feedback,” Meas said. “There’s a lot of respect there for the food. There was a ton of thought that went into it.”
Poke MIX is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. It’s located at 403 Bellevue Square in Downtown Bellevue.