The Poke and Sushi Burrito Trend

Poke in Hawaii is sensational and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be a success here in San Diego. So I have been waiting for Pokirrito to open for some time now. Have been a fan of RakiRaki for a while, so I am intrigued with Chef Watanabe’s newest Poke offerings and large poke and/or sushi stuffed “burittos” and will try as soon as they are open. San Diego Poke Co opening soon in Mission Valley is another place I’m really looking forward to. They have hired former Cafe Japengo Chef Meljohn Sebastian to head up the restaurant and Hawaiian inspired menu. Poke Go a staple of Hillcrest Farmers Market has gone brick and mortar with a permanent location in Hillcrest, but I’ve yet to go as it’s really just a take out place. It is on my list though. Fishbone in Liberty Public Market will reportedly be adding poke offerings to their menu very soon.

Finally, Rolled Up in Hillcrest is doing burrito sized sushi rolls with Poke style fillings. We went Saturday evening and had The Pokey, The Hamachi, and Upstream. The Hamachi was very flavorful, but really rich and creamy. I thought the ratio of ingredients was not providing enough fresh crunch as was just too creamy and gloppy, but my son enjoyed it. The more traditional Pokey was pretty tasty and my favorite of the bunch, but still needed more acid and more fresh veg crunch IMO… The Upstream with agave salmon had the best fresh crunch with the lettuce, asparagus, and cucumbers. It was a bit too sweet for me though, with the agave salmon and teriyaki mayo. They served two mayo based sauces (teriyaki maya, wasabi mayo, sirracha mayo) with each burrito. The sauces were OK, but the mayo base I thought was just over the top with the existing mayo and guac already inside. I asked for just some plain sirracha which I though worked better. Next time I’ll get the salsa roja, because I thought all three rolls really needed some acid to balance out all the rich creamyness. They also would have been more enjoyable with beer or Saki. Something that is not yet available and the staff wasn’t sure if it ever would be.

I’m not the grammar police, but just to clarify…did you really mean to say “there’s not reason it shouldn’t be a success”? or were you really saying that poke isn’t, or shouldn’t be successful here in SD? Color me confused on Monday morning (although some would say that is my permanent condition…)

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I’d be surprised if he didn’t mean “shouldn’t”. That was my interpretation, anyway. But then, I’m easily confused, too. Seems like everybody is doing poke these days in some shape or form.

Yes I meant shouldn’t. Case of the Mondays.


There’s actually quite a few reasons why poke on the Islands will invariably, and inevitably, be better than those found on the mainland.

While places like SD have access to fresh seafood (especially ahi tuna), proximity does not guarantee freshness, which is key, and really the foundation, for good poke. Not only does one need fresh fish, but enough turnover to ensure that the fresh fish you are buying and prepping for poke remains fresh.

Aside from the quality and freshness of the fish, there’s also the not so insignificant matter of seasonings and accouterments – in particular the ogo and limu. In many instances, here in the mainland it’s hard to find and source quality algae (like Gorilla Ogo from Paepae o He’eia), which is key to elevating pedestrian poke to really good poke.

It’s sort of like how a Po’boy in CA is never as good as it is than the iterations you find in Louisiana, or how bagels are somehow just a smidgen better coming somewhere from the Five Boroughs (or Montreal).


I get what you are saying, but I would posit that we have plenty of fresh seafood here and all the ingredients that are available in Hawaii you can get here via restaurant supply or at specialty markets (Even Kakui nut). I believe it’s the expertise and familiarity that we are lacking

Agree, although the specialty ingredients can’t be as fresh as they would be locally in Hawaii. It’s the same reason that our emerging local Nueva Baja cuisine (or whatever you want to call it) can’t be duplicated exactly elsewhere in the country. Some of the ingredients, if available at all, simply won’t be as fresh elsewhere. I thought ipse’s examples of po’boy’s in New Orleans and bagles in the northeast were good ones.

Anyway, we can enjoy what we have here, poke-wise.

By the way, when I first saw the buildout next to Raki-Raki, I thought they were expanding (which wouldn’t hurt). Like you, I’ll be interested in trying Pokiritto when it finally opens.

But that is like saying that no cuisine can ever be replicated anywhere as the ingredients are never as fresh and available as at its origin. I am not sure if I would agree as there are always different interpretations of every dish even at the original location and so making interpretations all over the world is no different than making interpretations at the point of origin. (I might agree that there is a certain “baseline” a dish has to meet)

I’m not getting what a sushi burrito is . Is it just a giant roll wrapped with Nori ? Please don’t tell me these are made with tortillas . That would be ultra gross .

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You know I hate to sound like a contrarian, but are the bagels, NY pizza, Chicago pizza, Italian beef, cheesesteaks, on and on, really that much better in the area where they developed or is it just the whole experience of the dish? I know poke is always going to taste “better” when I am sitting at Kailua Beach than it is at a mini mall in Mission Valley. And how much nostalgia is involved with these dishes? On the CH board, how many threads started with “I can’t find _____ as good as the ones I had in ______”

Yes wrapped with Nori 1st two pictures from Pokirrito and last is The Hamachi from Rolled Up

How many places outside of So Cal actually make a great Fish Taco? Should be able to make a very good one almost anywhere, but outside of SoCal it’s very rare.

I think it wouldn’t be very complicated to make equally (or better) fish tacos anywhere but unfortunately most businesses only doing the absolute minimum in terms of quality as long as they sell enough (for any kind of dish)

It absolutely has significant relationship to location.

Aside from sourcing the requisite ingredients (in terms of ease and cost), there’s also the issue of demand.

As others have said, it’s not that hard to make a quality fish taco, or that complicated to make a good cheesesteak sandwich, or whatever regional favorite you can think of.

The difference is demand, and by extension competition. Take the example du jour here, the poke. That dish is part of the quiddity of Hawaiian cuisine, culture, and to some extent the island’s culinary identity. Even if you wanted to skate by with a subpar version, a purveyor of poke in Hawaii could not survive making mediocre poke – the masses would demand better, and the competition would naturally supply it. Hawaiians know what good poke is (and isn’t); they grew up with the stuff and consider it as common as mainlanders consider grilled cheese to be a common specialty.

In other words, the culinary terroir precludes a regional specialty from being mediocre when that specialty is being offered in its “homeland”. Outside of that parochial area, the demand is not nearly as intense and heightened, nor prevalent, to essentially suffocate anything but a quality iteration of that regional specialty.

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Agree on the Poke . Here on the mainland it’s just subpar .

Agree, but more broadly: Yes: In Hawaii, the poke you’re trying to sell had better be good; in San Francisco, your sourdough had better be good; in New Orleans your po’boy had better be good; in Sheboygan, your bratwurst; in the South, your grits; etc. But away from these places, not so much.

You must of been wearing the stunning Stefano Bemer Oxford’s while writing this magnificent prose.

Culinary terroir from an Aloha perspective, is very real in the islands, especially, when one finds that they have a cellular memory to something that one might not even recall, as to why a certain food, resonates beyond a comprehension, that one questions, if past lives, really do exist.

Dalai Chica Lama





Love that Fakey!

Could use a bottom ‘Invisalign’ it would really boost his/her self esteem!