Poke King brings Hawaiian flavour and some much needed sunshine to Brunswick Street.
It’s allegedly spring, but the city is still feeling the winter cold, so dreams of warm beaches and bright sun are never far from the Melburnian mind. Brunswick Street’s newest eatery, Poke King, scratches that itch, serving up delicious Hawaiian inspired cuisine with a side of sunshine.
Poke – pronounced poh-keh – means “to slice”, fuses Hawaiian and Japanese cuisine to create a dish best described as a deconstructed sushi roll salad. As we all know, Melbourne loves sushi – and now Melbourne is falling in love the poke bowl.
Traditionally served with raw tuna or octopus, poke is a delicious tumble of fresh fish, seaweed, soy sauce, and sesame – a kind of tropical fish salad – but Poke King puts the power in your hands with a tonne of fresh, traditional (and not so traditional) ingredients so you can create your dream poke bowl. They also up the tummy filling potential of the dish by giving diners the option of a matcha rice, green tea soba noodle, or mixed grain rice base. If carbs aren’t your thing, they even have a kale and broccoli base available.
Founder Philip Bardis travelled extensively to Hawaii, learning about the culture and cuisine, before deciding to bring a slice of Hawaiian paradise to Melbourne with Chef Mark Ferdinand Tan. Poke King is the realisation of a dream for the pair, and the passion is evident with Bardis taking a very hands-on approach to creating the perfect store by designing and fabricating the store interior himself, and Tan – a chef with over a decade of experience in the food industry – bringing his expertise in Japanese cuisine.
The store itself is a beautiful blend of tropical and urban, with a bright and brilliant mural created by local artist Elmz Street greeting those that enter with a sight that is floral, vibrant, but still very Melbourne, and gorgeous faux-greenery adorning the rest of the store. It really is like walking into a tropical escape, but the vibe of Fitzroy – and Melbourne’s street art culture – is never too far away.
Food wise, the set up is simple but the flavours complex: diners choose a grain or noodle base, add a choice of protein – traditional tuna, salmon, chicken, tiger prawns, or tofu – then select any of the fourteen sides that take your fancy, top it off with one of eight Japanese and Hawaiian inspired sauce, then give it a zing with a sprinkle of any of the ten seasonings on offer (pick the furikake – trust me). If like me, you suffer from selection anxiety, the Poke Kings have you covered with suggested bowls from the chef himself.
When I visited the store, I had a salmon poke bowl with a delicious mix of quinoa, avocado, red cabbage, carrot, and marinated mushrooms (that I’m still dreaming about). I topped it all off with the holiest of Japanese holies: Kewpie Mayo. The poke bowl was filling, fresh, and at $15 for more than I could eat in one sitting, definitely affordable.
My favourite thing from my visit to Poke King was their Aloha fruit infused water. If sunshine can bottled, then Bardis and Tan have done it. I went with a mixed berry aloha water and a watermelon infused option, and both had me dreaming of sandy beaches – and also feeling very impressed with my healthy option decision making! Best of all for crunchy old me, they come in reusable – and totally adorable – old style glass milk bottles that can be brought back for refills and a discounted cost. I’m a sucker for a green approach to business, and Poke King back up their commitment to a healthy body and healthy world by supplying diners with biodegradable BioPak bowls and utensils, using wood and paper from sustainably managed plantations. Poke King is good for your body, and good for the environment.
Get in the aloha spirit and head down to Brunswick Street to try poke for yourself and find out why everyone is raving about this Hawaiian delight. If you don’t feel like braving the cold, they also deliver through UberEats – so the sunshine can come to you.
385 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Open 7 days 11am – 9pm