Who could imagine that working as a Naval engineer would lead Mahmoud Chaabane to opening Poke Bowl in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia? Poke, pronounced “po-kay”, is Hawaiian for to section, slice, or cut. This raw fish salad originated in Hawaii as an appetizer or snack, but the trend is catching on quickly for being a healthy, fresh and flavorful meal!
After being stationed for some time in Hawaii and then moving to the West Coast, Mahmoud moved to Philadelphia and was desperately looking for healthy food that was more satisfying than just a salad. We first heard about poke while watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives where Guy Fieri was in Hawaii and needless to say, we were very intrigued by this seafood dish. When Poke Bowl first opened in May 2016 we had to check it out.
Poke first began with fishermen seasoning the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack. The ingredients in poke today are always extremely fresh and of the highest quality- sushi grade fish. Traditional poke seasonings have been heavily influenced by Japanese and other Asian cuisines. Although chopsticks are served with poke bowls , we recommend using a fork to get a little bit of every topping in each bite!
Traditional toppings include soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil. Mahmoud noticed that in Hawaii most poke bowls were offered pre-made and pre-seasoned. He wanted to create his restaurant with the option to customize your bowl to better fit the needs and dietary restrictions of his customers. Poke Bowl is a fast-casual restaurant and you’ll notice that the counter is set up so that every customer can create their own unique bowl.
Pick a small $9.25 or large $11.50 bowl (that is the set price no matter how many toppings!).
First you choose your base: there is white rice, brown rice, kale salad or mixed greens. You can also choose to mix 2 bases.
Second select your protein: Raw tuna, raw salmon, steamed octopus, steamed shrimp, or steamed crab? Also look for specials like cobia, snapper, and scallops (tofu also available) Pick one or two proteins.
Third choose a marinade: sweet, spicy, ginger-citrus, and gluten free are available. Then you can add from a variety of toppings including radish, cucumber, jalapeno, pineapple, mango, green onion, white onion, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, nori, tobiko, and more. Avocado is $1 extra. Drizzle some wasabi aioli or sriracha aioli on top and you’re set!
Each bowl is beautifully adorned with microgreens and a fresh orchid (which is edible!) to truly make your dining experience feel like its on a tropical island. Mahmoud told us that he has tried to make Poke Bowl as authentic as possible. He goes to the fish market in South Philly everyday to pick out his fish! He recommends digging into the layers of the bowl when eating poke instead of mixing it all up.
Its no surprise that tuna and salmon here are the biggest sellers, we loved them both. Choosing a base of brown rice also seemed to be our favorite and very filling. The sweet and spicy marinade paired well with the salmon and you can adjust the spice level to your taste! Adding fresh jalapeno slices is also a great way to kick up the spice a few levels. Try the fresh jalapeno with mango or pineapple for spicy sweet.
The sriracha aioli drizzle doesn’t overpower the fresh flavors in these bowls which is ideal. Poke Bowl is the perfect meal for a hot summer day with its bright colors and flavors. We’re so excited to welcome Philadelphia’s first poke restaurant. Stop by for lunch or dinner and be sure to look for delivery options available soon via Grubhub. Dont’ forget your loyalty card either- 5 stamps gets you a free drink and 10 stamps can be redeemed for a small bowl.
We would like to thank Mahmoud for bringing poke to Philadelphia and letting us try it!