Not your average salad bar in Singapore, this CBD restaurant is a buzzy contender in the Hawaiian poke bowl trend
The thing is, when you live in country obsessed with food, you’re bound to be tempted by the next food trend that emerges from the scene. Truffle fries, fro-yo, bao sandwiches and salted egg yolk everything – there’s always something popping up to keep foodies fidgety. One in particular, that’s especially popular amongst health buffs and salad munchers (and those who really love their Japanese sashimi), is the Hawaiian poke bowl – raw fish salad served with your choice of sushi rice or greens. And like all food trends in Singapore, it’s really taken off.
Aloha Poke at Amoy Street was one of the first joints to get poke off the ground in Singapore, and there have been a few who follow suit – Rollie Olie at Suntec City’s PasarBella, the new Katto at Fusionopolis, and one that’s just down the road from our office at Boon Tat Street, A Poke Theory. I’ll admit: I had a lot of acquaintances on social media who were plugging and raving about this new CBD spot, so I gave it a few weeks for the hype to settle down before I tried A Poke Theory for myself. So how was lunchtime on a Tuesday afternoon? Still clearly packed.
Sitting within its simplistic, fuss-free space were both casual diners and corporate folks who looked like they could use a break. The restaurant is laid out functionally to accommodate as many customers as possible; shiftable square tables with stools are scattered about neatly, between clean white walls and sleek monolith-shaped shelves with glass jars and herbs for ornamentation. It’s not the most Instagrammable place, but with food this alluring and aesthetically pleasing, however, you won’t run out of photo opps.
Typical of a salad bar, you choose your layers one by one, mixing and matching as you go down the line (the queue was a tell-tale sign of poke’s popularity). You start by choosing a base; select from sticky Japanese sushi rice, crunchy romaine lettuce, or a nutty lemon herb quinoa. You then choose your type of sashimi; raw salmon is available in both spicy mayo and avocado miso flavours, or raw tuna in original shoyu or spicy garlic. Pick your size – $12.50 for a 100g bowl and $16.50 for 150g – and go crazy with your toppings after. Regular toppings like carrot strips, edamame beans and cherry tomatoes are included in the price, but you have to top up an extra $2 (each) for premium toppings like crispy salmon skin, kalua pork or Thai mango. In other words, your poke choices are almost endless.
Slightly starving, I ordered two bowls for myself – the original shoyu tuna and spicy mayo salmon. In a carb-y mood, I ordered the sushi rice for both my bases, and for toppings, I asked for a lil’ bit of everything. On hindsight, the latter decision wasn’t the wisest. Since, in my case, my heap of toppings fully blanketed the fish and rice that were beneath, it made scooping for them a tad cumbersome, even when tossed – though I won’t deny that my final product looked perfect for an Insta-shot.
Each topping was undoubtedly fresh and distinguishable – the sweetness of the sliced cherry tomatoes, the juiciness of the cucumbers, the sharp tanginess of the pineapple, the sour, spiciness of the kimchi. Mixed together, however, the combination of ingredients wasn’t quite as harmonious as I’d hoped, and this essentially drowned out the seasonings of the sashimi and the vinegared flavours of the sushi rice. Eaten separately, however, both the shoyu tuna and spicy mayo salmon were both delightfully done – the chunks were soft, thick (think bara chirashi), and oozing with flavour with every munch. My tip? Choose your toppings sparingly; you don’t want too much competing with these goodies.
But poke isn’t the only health boost you can find at A Poke Theory. Also available – at $6 a cup – are Superfood Smoothie Bowls. Essentially a cross between smoothies and soft serves, these nutritious treats are perfect for a scorching day, and are generously topped with fruits (like pomegranates, mangoes, raspberries and bananas) and superfoods (sunflower seeds and quinoa puffs). I had a sweet, milky Raspberry Tropic to go for my colleagues to dig into; this was not an easy task as, unlike smoothies, these bowls melt really quickly once you take them outta the restaurant. You have been warned!
Your best bet is to just take an hour off work (this is healthy for you too), plonk yourself down in this trendy joint, mix up your customised poke bowl and have it mix up your lifestyle if you’ve had too much of sinful, guilty nosh. I’ll practise more discretion the next time I concoct my poke bowl, but ’til then, we’ll continue keeping our eyes on A Poke Theory. After all, the lunchtime queues don’t lie.
A Poke Theory, 27 Boon Tat Street, Singapore 069623. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm.