Founded in 2015, Pokéworks opened their first store in Manhattan, and has been expanding up and down both coasts ever since. The goal is to bring people flavorful food, in the form of poké; a Hawaiian staple. The concept is healthy fast-casual that’s fresh and fun. Not only is all of their fish responsibly sourced and sustainable, but they also have a wide variety of vegan and gluten-free options not commonly found at poké joints. At Pokéworks, customization is king, with hundreds of possible combinations. The small shop is light, bright, and located along busy Bellevue Way, with an extensive menu that runs along the back wall. In six easy steps, you too can poké your way.
As we’re sure you’re aware, the poké trend shows no sign of slowing down, and Pokéworks can lay claim to being one of the pioneers. Like many other poke joints, Pokéworks uses the Chipotle-style method of fast casual dining. Customers walk down a line and customize a bowl of rice, salad, or burrito. Here at Pokéworks, fresh raw fish is the star. If you’re hesitant to customize your own poké, or find all the options overwhelming, Pokéworks offers eight signature options to choose from. One of the signatures we sampled was the Hawaiian Classic, with ahi tuna, green and sweet onion, ogo seaweed, cucumber, chili flakes, sesame seeds, roasted sesame oil, hawaiian salt, and pokéworks classic sauce. This bowl arrived on a base of white rice and was fairly simple and classically presented. While we found the rice to be on the mushy side and the rice to protein ratio a bit off (too much rice), the overall flavor was quite nice and reminiscent of traditional Hawaiian poké. The Pokéworks classic sauce is sesame based with hints of honey, and personally, we would’ve enjoyed a bit more sauce in this bowl. Fun fact: this bowl will be featured in Buzzfeed’s hit show “Worth It.”
Photos by: foodolish.com
Next up, we tried the shiso salmon poké burrito, which was basically a sushi burrito! Salmon, green and sweet onion, edamame, cucumber, sesame seeds, fresh shiso, and ponzu fresh sauce all arrived rolled in rice and wrapped in seaweed. This was a fun spin on your typical burrito. Since all your protein and mix-ins are wrapped in roasted seaweed, this is definitely a healthier option than your standard burrito. The shiso salmon was delicate and fresh, and the ponzu fresh sauce was so light, it was barely discernible. It really let the fresh salmon shine. If you’re looking for a light healthy lunch, this is it.
After trying a few of the signature options, we decided to go for it and customize our own bowls. Poké your way means an endless amount of combinations and Pokéworks differentiates themselves with the amount of options they provide and unlimited mix-ins. They also only do one pre-mixed protein (spicy tuna), as the idea is to promote freshness. Of note: mix-ins and crunch are unlimited, but toppings are not. All sauces are made in-house, and their may is even gluten-free!
Custom Poké Noodle Bowl, hereby dubbed the Foodolish bowl, contained a base of kale noodles, spicy ahi (pre-mixed), spicy salmon, cucumber, ogo seaweed, sriracha aioli, masago, pickled ginger, garlic and onion crisps, and nori. We loved having the option of kale noodles, since most places only have rice and salad as base options. The pre-mixed ahi had a nice kick thanks to the sriracha aioli, and the pickled ginger helped balance out the spice.
Custom Poké Bowl with brown rice, hereby dubbed the Double S bowl, contained a base of brown rice, shrimp, scallop, cilantro, hijiki seaweed, chopped shiso, spicy ginger sauce, crab salad, avocado, and wonton crisps. Both the shrimp and scallops are already sous vide, and we found the shrimp to be wuite large and crunchy. The seaweed salad was a nice addition and wonton crisps provided a much needed crunch. Both proteins were super fresh and we thought the spicy ginger sauce was the perfect complement, given the hit of citrus it contained.
Given the plethora of options, we can safely assert that Pokéworks has mass appeal, particularly for the lunch crowd. It’s also pretty darn healthy! Choose your base, protein(s), mix-ins, sauce, toppings, and crunch, and you’re on your way. The price point is fairly standard for the portion size, and they also offer a few sides such as miso soup. For all you dole whip lovers out there, Pokéworks will be getting their machine up and running soon. Overall, we had a good experience at Pokéworks. The food is fast, fresh, and you can literally have something different every visit.
Pokéworks | 222 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA 98004 | Open 7 days a week