Last week, Pōk the Raw Bar opened in the West Village. The restaurant is the brainchild of two Southern Methodist University undergrads who are also Los Angeles natives. Like the trendiest, stylish temple of superfood, they were ladling ceremonial matcha from lidded marble canisters. I wasn’t surprised to see someone from my yoga studio there.
Poké bowls might come with bamboo rice, tinted a pale jade green. Or purple cauliflower rice. In the salmon bowl (farmed Scottish salmon, not wild, but they’ve paid attention to sourcing), Asian pear is crisp and sweet, and crispy kale crackles with flavor. With microgreens and the heat of Serrano chiles, it was a rather perfect harmony.
Their secret weapon is Jimmy Park, who most recently handled raw fish at Nobu. He gets the menu’s Asian flavors absolutely right. (Those marinated shiitakes!) You feel the chef’s touches in the general balance and subtlety. Take the salmon bowl, a delight of bright, clean, crisp flavors. Or the vegetarian option with tofu, kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, hijiki seaweed, and togarashi spice. You’ll find add-ons like shiso leaf, wasabi tobiko, and lotus chips.
Like any place that also includes a build-your-own-bowl option, it could be a hodgepodge. It’s not. The list of add-ons is focused. And the staff at the register proves of good council. Do you like spicy? Serranos. Something fresh and attractive? Microgreens. What about those chili-marinated orange supremes? You already have Asian pear. They seem to grasp the bowls, and you end up with something rather lovely and balanced.
Soon they’ll add Pōk’s third component, sake, the list including a Kurosawa junmai at $22, a seasonal jumai daiginjo (the highest-quality and most subtle) at $37. Crazy; absurd, you think. Maybe not.