Fine, climate change. You win. I give up. It’s too hot for cooked food. It’s too hot for the oven, the stove, the toaster, all of them. I don’t want to walk past a slow cooker or pull something out of a microwave.
Inconveniently, of course, it is also too hot to leave the house. This summer, when I ask friends, “did you have a good weekend?,” I am really asking if they stayed inside their home for 60 hours straight, never bothering to change out of pajamas, keeping cool with air conditioning and cans of beer.
But sometimes necessity impels us to venture out into what is becoming a worldwide hellscape. And if you’ve left the house, you might as well make it worth your time by eating poke.
The bowl is one of Hawaii’s culinary prides, a dish that celebrates its fresh seafood and the influences of Asian and Polynesian cultures—while also being refreshing to eat in tropical heat. Here in Dallas, we’ve got increasingly good seafood supplies thanks to the proximity of a major airport hub. And, thanks to two centuries of seemingly unrelated human decisions about how to organize society, develop economies, and lead prosperous lives, we now also have the tropical heat.
Poke acquired a bit of a bad reputation around Dallas back in 2017 or so, when it achieved Obnoxiously Big Trend status as new versions opened on seemingly every block. Since then, it’s been ousted as the North Texas food du jour, first by Nashville hot chicken and more recently by spicy rigatoni. Maybe that means we can finally appreciate a great bowl of poke for what it offers.
Which is why on a recent weekday, back when the temperature was only 98, I grabbed lunch at Malibu Poke. Of all the restaurants to come from Dallas’ poke wave, Malibu has the best seafood sourcing (courtesy of TJ’s Seafood impresario Jon Alexis) and one of the most interesting menus (a collaboration with Homewood chef Matt McCallister).
The process of going to Malibu is, admittedly, idiosyncratic. The high-tech ordering system offers facial recognition scanning and allows you to save a “regular” order for the computer to remember on your next visit. Even a luddite like me, though, appreciates the exceptional balance of these bowls. My order, with salmon and red miso sauce, had everything: soft, flavorful rice, good fish, tangy dressing, slivers of hot serrano peppers, and a bit of crunch from both jicama and arare (little ball-shaped rice-based crispy crackers). I recommend upgrading from a small bowl to a medium, since the biggest difference is in the amount of seafood.
It is tempting to try living off paletas and ice cream bowls alone right now. But paletas and ice cream melt, and there is probably a nutrition-related issue with that diet, too. Hey, poke has carbs, protein, vegetables, and spice. It’s not warm. And Malibu Poke’s air conditioner is so powerful, you’ll remember what being cold feels like. Can there be any higher recommendation right now?