Aloha Poke – A Bowl of Fun
Aloha Poke is the place to go when you want the freshness and quality of sushi, but you need it fast. The thing about poke bowls is that they’re convenient, compact and incredibly tasty. If you’ve never had one you’re missing out. The Aloha on Belmont and Clark is a small and quaint spot, but its intimate feel allows you to really savor and enjoy your meal. There are several questions you have to ask yourself once you’re inside when it comes to ordering, but the good news is that almost any combination is sure to be a winner.
Aloha has an interesting feel immediately when you walk in. It’s very small, probably only seats about 15 patrons or less. There’s no restroom inside and it’s a walk-up counter only, not the style restaurant where you sit down and wait to be served. In other words, one of the most causal dining restaurants you could imagine. Here are the five main questions you should be prepared to answer once you arrive at Aloha.
No. 1 – Size. Sizes range from a little 8 oz., a big 16 oz. and the kahuna at a whopping 24 ounces. How hungry you are will determine how much poke you’ll end up needing. I usually go for the big 16 oz. It hits the spot where it’s just filling enough, but not too much or too little. There have been a few times where I needed the 24 oz. bowl because I was so hungry and it definitely did the trick.
No. 2 – Base. The base goes down at the bottom of the bowl under whatever poke you decide to choose. The three base options are white rice, brown rice or mixed greens. I normally choose rice, but the vegetables could be a strong choice too.
No. 3 – Poke option. There are three main types of protein that are available to choose from – ahi tuna, salmon or tofu. From there you can also choose whether you want them marinated in sesame and shoyu (soy sauce) or “naked” which is just plain and clean. Marinated is honestly the best way to go in my opinion and I usually do an ahi tuna/salmon combo, but it’s nice that there’s a tofu option if you’re vegetarian.
No. 4 – Creativity. You can get creative with your bowl creation and choose the toppings and ingredients that you want on top of your poke bowl. They have prefixed options like the aloha bowl which includes pineapple, cucumber, scallion, jalapeno, maui onion and sesame vinaigrette. There’s also a volcano bowl, which has seaweed, edamame, jalapeno, ginger, tobiko and volcano sauce. And then there’s the crunch bowl, which is my personal favorite and go-to. The crunch has jalapeno, cucumber, scallions, edamame, tobiko, crunch, spicy aioli and samurai sauce. You can mix and match and add as many toppings as you want. I usually swap the jalapenos for avocado because the pepper’s too hot for me, but you can feel free to change or add as many things as you could possibly imagine.
No. 5 – Sauces. If you choose a prefixed-bowl option they include sauces, but you can add extra or add another sauce as many times over as you want. The samurai sauce on the crunch bowl is my favorite and is basically like a sweet soy sauce. I sometimes add the wasabi sauce as well, which is an intense horseradish, wasabi combo. They also have the volcano option, spicy aioli, sesame oil, yuzu ranch and sesame vinaigrette.
With so many options, ingredients and combos there’s really no limit to where you can go with the poke bowl options at Aloha. And I know that the list of questions seem like a lot and may be confusing, but they make everything very easy and straightforward when you go to the restaurant. They have easy signage and make ordering a breeze. The poke bowl itself, though? The crunch bowl with white rice, marinated ahi tuna and salmon, avocado instead of jalapeno, extra samurai sauce and wasabi sauce combines all of the best flavors sushi has to offer and mixes them up in one bowl. Instead of ordering multiple sushi rolls, you can get a bowl with all of the sushi grade fish cuts with rice and flavor galore that will fill you up with just one bowl. And the price isn’t bad. A 16 oz. bowl is just under $10, which will fill you up and is guaranteed to be cheaper than if you went out to sushi for lunch. They have an amazing combination of flavors to choose from and you can personalize each bowl to really make it yours.
1. Location: There are multiple locations around the city that really make it easily accessible. There are other companies that serve poke bowls around the city, too, but Aloha Poke is among my favorites.
2. Price: For about $10, I can eat a delicious and refreshing lunch/dinner that feels like I’m getting all-you-can-eat sushi for a better price and much better quality.
3. Menu: Their menu seems intimidating at first. (You can always tell when it’s someone’s first time visiting.) But the fact is they break it down really easy into sections of what you should be asking for and descriptions of what all of the flavors are.
4. Quality: The freshness of the ahi tuna and taste is top notch. I wasn’t expecting much the first time I tried a poke bowl, but I was pleasantly surprised. They really focus on quality ingredients.
5. Portion: There are three options for bowl sizes, so no matter how hungry you are or not there’s the perfect portion for you.
1. Menu: Just the same. Those who are visiting for the first time may have a difficult time ordering. Just be patient, employees face first-timers all daylong so they’ll be able to guide you painlessly through it.
2. Cashiers: As great as the food is (which is why I keep coming back), unfortunately I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with cashiers. Just being short with me and overall a little rude. Nothing terrible, but I wish some of the staff would be a little nicer.
3. Parking: I don’t usually park over near the Belmont and Clark restaurant, because the Belmont Red Line is right there, but if you were looking for parking, it’s not the best area for that. Just take the train.
4. Kahuna price: I know it’s asking for a lot because 24 oz. of ahi tuna is a lot to ask for, but $15 is a lot for one bowl.
5. Seating: The seating is very tight and cramped in the restaurant. You can’t sit with more than one person and the stools are uncomfortable. Not a place you want to stay for a while. Take to go or stop and eat quickly, but worth it.