Chef Roy Ellamar tells a tale as he presents me with his iteration of poke. Years ago, a friend from his native Hawaii presented an upscale hotel with the idea of a quick-stop poke place. They told him it would never work. Now, this simple fish dish has become one of if not the hottest food trend in the country.
Poke is a Hawaiian seafood salad, most commonly made with raw tuna marinated with assorted Asian condiments and often served over sushi rice. It is fresh, full of protein, filling but not in an uncomfortable way, and when done right, something to be craved.
The proliferation of excellent poke in Las Vegas seems to be gaining steam. Here are four unique choices to try—besides the rightfully renowned Poke Express (655 W. Craig Road #118, 702-639-0500; 9400 S. Eastern Ave., 702-221-1600)—for some of the best.
At Harvest (Bellagio, 702-693-8865), Ellamar offers his take ($8) from the snack wagon, the very reasonably priced appetizer cart. He uses bigeye tuna and coats it with a bourbon soy sauce, sriracha, the Japanese seaweed condiment furikake and sesame oil and finishes it over rice.
A bit south on the Strip at Herringbone (Aria, 702-590-9898), chef Geno Bernardo showcases yellowfin tuna and a number of influences he’s picked up throughout his career. This precisely cut fish ($22) is marinated with shoyu, sesame and chili oil and topped with scallions, Maui onions and Macadamia nuts. It’s served with chewy, delicious green onion pancakes.
Though his spot is tucked away in Chinatown, Hawaiian Style Poke (3524 Wynn Road, 702-202-0729) owner Dennis Cornelio has never had a problem finding a crowd—the place has been packed since it opened eight years ago. He gets his fish from Japan and offers a number of riffs on the dish ($10.50), including samurai, in a delicious miso marinade, and spicy garlic. If you don’t want fish, go with tako poke, his wonderful version of raw, marinated octopus.
Find the clearest indication poke has gone mainstream at Soulfish Poke (9500 S. Eastern Ave., 702-778-5677). Picture a Chipotle-like setup where one can pick a base (rice, quinoa, soba noodles) then a protein (the usual suspects plus scallops, tofu and more) and a huge number of toppings including mango, bell peppers and crispy onions ($8.50-$11.50). Expect to see these all over the Valley soon enough.