Edmonton’s poke trend continues with ‘Ono Poke Co. opening on 104 Street. Promising authentic Hawai’ian flavours and fresh ingredients, this fast casual eatery will have you saying “oh yes!”I’ll start off by saying that I am located incredibly close to ‘Ono Poke Co. I’m also incredibly thankful to be a part of downtown Edmonton’s growing community of residences and businesses that in Hawai’i would otherwise be called ohana, or family. So ‘Ono Poke Co. not only is bringing authentic Hawai’ian poke to the core, but is also a part of building that sense of community. I am so happy for this, it’s unreal.
Taking over the old Blunt Salon space, the renovations yielded a simple counter where you can watch your bowl being assembled, a cooler of beverages and ready to take home poke and sides, and a second counter for shaved ice. Simple white tables call for a fast, casual experience, indoors or out; or enjoy your poke bowl underneath a quirky modern light fixture.
CHEF-DRIVEN MENU, AUTHENTIC HAWAI’IAN FLAVOURS
Chef Lawrence Hui’s original concept was to bring Edmonton a build your own poke bowl eatery. A trip to Maui for extensive eating research quickly changed that and inspired the menu presented today. Alongside six mainstay bowls (and two more on the way!), Chef Lawrence Hui and sous chef Matthew Lafleur also offer Chef’s Features, utilizing whatever is fresh for the week.
Bowls come in two sizes: regular and large. The larger portion is actually an increase in your choice of base (furikake white rice, mixed greens, seasoned quinoa, or a half/half mix), whereas an additional scoop of protein is an additional $4.50. Toppings vary according to the bowl you choose but can be customized if you’re really against that onion or cilantro. You can also add an egg or avocado, or additional topping for an extra buck.Chili water is a popular condiment in Hawai’i, unique to every chef. At ‘Ono, it’s simple: sugar, garlic, Thai chili, and water. The table side add-on is a nice mix of sweet and spicy, a welcome bonus to any bowl.
I can’t get enough of the classic namesake, the ‘Ono Poke Bowl. I’m a traditionalist at heart and firmly believe that what has a solid history and culture behind it is always a good thing. The ahi tuna is fresh, cut into perfect bite size portions and marinated in shoyu sauce. Mixed in with sesame oil, ginger, seaweed, and white onion and you have a bowl coming straight out of Hawai’i. The addition of sea asparagus provides a salty bite and an Asian slaw of red cabbage, daikon, carrot topped with macadamia nuts provides a textural crunch. I love this bowl.
‘ONO (with the okina) MEANS DELICIOUS.
ONO (without the okina) IS A TYPE OF MACKEREL, AKA WAHOO.
Uncle Tom’s Surf Poke is my second favourite, named after Chef Tom Muromoto at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel in Maui. Ahi tuna is yet again the star of the show and is mixed with a spicy tobiko aioli. For me, the bowl could definitely use some more heat but if you’re really seeking for spice, try the Prairie Luau, a gochujang marinated braised pork bowl with a gochujang vinaigrette.
MY GO-TO: ‘ONO POKE & UNCLE TOM’S SURF POKE. AHI TUNA FOR THE WIN.
I found The G.G (Atlantic salmon in ginger green onion dressing) to be more on the bitter side of things and not as well balanced as the other bowls. The Twitch in Tuna (Albacore tuna in citrus ponzu) is bright and refreshing, thanks to a fresh pineapple mango salsa. Try these if you’re ahi-tuna’ed out. I’ve yet to try the vegan, gluten-friendly bowl: Beet The Poke (unpictured).
Past feature bowls have included: New Zealand Tarahiki (sea bream), Moonshell Surf Clam, and Hawaiian Swordfish. Super cool if you want to try some unique seafood products!
MAKE SURE YOU GET A STAMP CARD.
‘Ono Poke Co. is the closest you can get to traditional poke in Edmonton. I find that the build your own bowl concept resembles the more mainstream poke found off the islands and more in line with large metropolis like Los Angeles and New York City.
The fish is cut into large pieces and is already marinated. Toppings feature both traditional (seaweed, onion, Hawai’ian sea salt) and non-traditional (microgreens!) The crunch factor is limited to shrimp or cuttlefish chips and macadamia nuts, or a slaw of carrots and daikon but all the bowls seem to be well thought out. It’s definitely a more refined bowl that any poke I’ve ever had.I found a regular sized bowl (with rice) to be generous for lunch and found them to be consistent in their portions for all of my visits. I’m a fan for a bite of fish with every bite of rice. Since a large bowl is doubling your base, I’d recommend adding another scoop of protein to keep this ratio the same, but this will rack your bowl up to $20! Poke can get steep in the prairies. Having bought the ahi tuna at Fins before to make my own poke, I know that quality comes at a price. Another reason why the Ono and Uncle Tom’s are my favourite. Get that ahi tuna folks.
Sauces are also added on top of the poke and base, and depending on who’s behind the counter and your palate, can be under or over sauced. The best is just to tell them your preference. Service is pretty fluid thanks to the preconceived bowls. Staff have always been helpful in asking if it was my first time at ‘Ono or if I have any questions about poke or the ingredients. They also confirm if you’re okay with all the toppings before proceeding.
I’m excited to enjoy the summer with ‘Ono Poke Co. and can’t wait for that shaved ice machine to get up and running. A sneak peek this past weekend was promising, the pineapple shaved ice cream my favourite of the two.
‘Ono Poke Co.
10142 104 Street