L.A.'s Best Poke

Written by Alexa Barnes | Photographed by Julie Wuellner

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Poke bowls have taken over Southern California, like few other food trends. With so many restaurant options, it can be hard to choose where to go. To make it easier we ranked the 10 best poke restaurants around Malibu.

 The OG Bowl at Poke-Poke, closest to its Hawaiain roots, is a customer favorite served with raw cubes sashimi grade ahi, shoyu, sesame oil, white and green onions, sesame seeds.

The OG Bowl at Poke-Poke, closest to its Hawaiain roots, is a customer favorite served with raw cubes sashimi grade ahi, shoyu, sesame oil, white and green onions, sesame seeds.

Originating in the Hawaiian Islands, poke, or rather poke bowls have made their way to the mainland and have taken over California by storm. Poke is traditionally cubed raw fish- commonly tuna- that is seasoned in sauces- typically soy sauce and sesame oil- topped off with onions.

The common Hawaiian meal is well-loved and has roots dating back all the way to the Native Hawaiians. Around here, poke has strayed off the traditional path somewhat, with restaurants allowing customers to build their own bowl- with endless toppings ranging from seaweed salad, to edamame- and fish options from shrimp to spicy tuna. It’s even possible to add a salad mix or chips as a base instead of the traditional rice. Just in the last couple of years, poke is starting to be be served at a dizzying amount of restaurants across the area. With such an immense number of options, it can be hard to choose which poke restaurant to head to. In order to help narrow it down, we set out on a journey to taste the 10 best poke restaurants around Malibu. Beginning in Thousand Oaks and ending in Venice, we ranked each poke shop based on the freshness of the fish and toppings, variety of toppings, quality of service, ambiance of the shop itself, and authenticity to the native Hawaiian recipe.

Our initial search began with polling our editorial staff and reading through thousands of online reviews, after that it was time to hit the road. After 10  stops, and a stomach full of poke, the winner of our trip was Poke-Poke in Venice Beach, with Seasalt Fish Grill in Santa Monica coming in at a close second. Both restaurants went the more traditional route with their poke bowls and featured the tastiest fish combined with delicious sauces and simple toppings- just like the Hawaiians. Though our team may take a small break from poke, one thing’s for sure- this trendy Hawaiian staple is here to stay.

 

1. Poke-Poke

VENICE -  2011 Ocean Front Walk | (310) 822-5639 | www.poke-poke.com

 Poke-Poke is conveniently located directly on the Venice Boardwalk.

Poke-Poke is conveniently located directly on the Venice Boardwalk.

 From sushi to salmon to Acai bowls, Poke-Poke has something for everyone.

From sushi to salmon to Acai bowls, Poke-Poke has something for everyone.

Opened in 2010, Poke-Poke is a traditional Hawaiian poke walk-up shop right on Venice Beach known for serving the some of the freshest and most authentic poke on the mainland. On their menu, Poke-Poke offers a list of traditional bowl options straight from Hawaii. For customers who want to get a little more creative, there is an options to customize their bowl with additional toppings. After picking your size and your base, customers can choose their “poke flavor,” ranging from mild to spicy, or even taking a more authentic route with just shoyu (a soy sauce), sesame oil and sesame seeds. A variety of extra “add ins” are offered from avocado to macadamia nuts-- Poke-Poke even has vegetarian options and serve acai bowls. After ordering, customers can pull up a seat in the covered seating next to the shop or outside to watch the entertainment next door: Muscle Beach and the tennis courts. Standing out from the crowd, Poke-Poke gives customers an  authentic Hawaiian feel, right in Southern California. The best tasting and most authentic poke place we tried, Poke Poke is a must when it comes to the world of poke.

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2. Seasalt Fish Grill

SANTA MONICA - 508 Santa Monica Blvd. | (310) 656-9777| www.seasaltfishgrill.com

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Located a couple blocks up from the pier, Seasalt Fish Grill is a little hole in the wall restaurant serving everything from fresh caught fish to poke bowls. Arguably the most authentic poke we tried, Seasalt gives its customers the option of choosing from six traditional poke bowls, with the option of adding additional toppings. Each bowl is prepared with thick cubes of fresh fish seasoned in sesame and soy dressing. Giving you the most bang for your buck, Seasalt offers customers great value, serving large portions of fish for very reasonable prices - each bowl was only $11. Accompanied by a friendly staff and a cozy vibe with dimmed lighting and the options to sit upstairs or downstairs by the kitchen, Seasalt Fish Grill is a great option whether you’re wanting poke or something else caught fresh from the sea.


3. Kai Poke

WOODLAND HILLS - 23349 Mulholland Dr | (818) 912-6799 | www.kai-poke.com

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Located off Mulholland Drive in a shopping center, Kai Poke is a higher end poke restaurant. While they limit their toppings and fish options, the restaurant provides great service and even better food. One of the more health conscious restaurants we tried, Kai has options ranging from roasted beets to coconut rice and kale. Kai that has tried and tasted bowls that they specialize in making, all based on healthy living. Customers can also opt to build their  own bowl in either a small or a large size. Different than most poke restaurants, Kai allots each customer five free toppings, and the option to pick from six sauces. Once customers have made their selections, they can take their food indoors or can opt to sit outside under the twinkle lights in the beautiful Woodland Hills setting.


4. Duke’s Malibu

MALIBU - 21150 Pacific Coast Hwy. | (310) 317-0777 | www.dukesmalibu.com

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Sitting beside the Pacific Ocean, Duke’s is a Hawaiian food staple right at home in  Malibu. Known for its classic Hawaiian food and island vibes, Duke’s isn’t recognized right-off the bat for it’s poke bowl, though it should be. Duke’s poke bowls, and poke tacos are made with fresh tuna and avocado puree. A modernized take on a traditional Hawaiian recipe, Duke’s tacos and bowl are a good option for customers wanting poke in a more formalized setting. Marinated in soy sauce, and garnished with Maui onions, both the poke bowl and the poke tacos were cannot miss at Duke’s.


5. Honeyfish

THOUSAND OAKS - 3835 Thousand Oaks Blvd. | (805) 370-8888 | www.honeyfishpoke.com

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Located in Westlake Village, Honeyfish is your typical poke restaurant that specializes in build-your-own bowls. A wide range of protein options, base options and topping options are offered, allowing customers to go for a more traditional Hawaiian route or mix it up. The food was fresh and the toppings were prepared directly in front of us, with the employee even cutting the avocado open just for our bowl. Honeyfish aims to please, allowing customers to sample their toppings before ordering. The small restaurant looks to maintain a healthier vibe than most poke places, offering extras for your meal such as miso soup and milk tea made with boba pearls instead of traditional sugar boba.  


6. Poke Tiki

THOUSAND OAKS - 245 N Moorpark Rd. | (805) 372-7654 | www.poketiki.com

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Poke Tiki is a newer poke restaurant that recently opened up in Thousand Oaks, located in the Janns Marketplace. Aimed at providing an island vibe and traditional,fresh food, Poke Tiki specializes in made to order poke bowls and great customer service. They offer a range of base options from white or brown rice to lettuce, and even chips.. In an effort to allow customer to truly create their perfect poke bowl, Poke Tiki offers unlimited toppings. As for sauces, Poke Tiki is a little bit different than your average poke restaurant, offering spicy mayo and/or the option of their special “poke sauce” or even one of their hotter “volcano” sauces for more spice. No matter what customers are looking for, this poke restaurant serves a fresh and tasty poke bowl, all for under $15.


7. Poke Republic

SAWTELLE - 1716 S Sepulveda Blvd. | (424) 208-3201 | www.pokerepublic.net

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An inland poke shop off Sepulveda Blvd., Poke Republic is a build-your-own-bowl restaurant. Set up like a lunch line, Poke Republic allows customers to pick from a wide range of fresh ingredients for dine in, carry out or delivery. They offer the widest range proteins we saw during our trip, even offering Cajun crawfish for your bow along with a wide variety of unlimited toppings, from edamame to mango. Catering to the Los Angeles community, Poke Republic offers starters , such as garlic edamame and even gyoza. Poke Republic has it all-- they even offer sushi rolls and dessert options of mochi or macaron ice cream. Paired with a easy to find location off the freeway, Poke Republic is a good option for anyone looking for a tasty lunch or dinner option.

 


8. Kreasian Kitchen

THOUSAND OAKS - 3845 Thousand Oaks Blvd. | (805) 230-3590 | www.kreasionkitchen.com

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Another poke place located a few doors down from Honeyfish in Westlake Village is KreAsian Kitchen. A more eclectic poke restaurant, KreAsian specializes in a wide range of lunch and dinner options such as sushi, sushi burritos and poke bowls. KreAsian’s mission is to provide customers with the ability to create anything that they would like to, honing in their creative skills and decorating their meals with as many toppings and sauces as they want. While KreAsian’s sushi burritos are the real star at the small restaurant, their poke bowls are a delicious option as well. While all of their options are filling, their  poke bowls are especially generous, allowing customers three proteins rather than the 2 customers get in a sushi burrito. Orange and green decor brighten up this more modernized sushi spot known eclectic mix of toppings and flavors.


9. Spinfish Poke

SANTA MONICA - 808 Wilshire Blvd #100 | (310) 260-1321 | www.spinfishpoke.com

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Spinfish, another small poke chain in Santa Monica, specializes in serving build your own bowls. Decorated with blue lights and modern decor, Spinfish offers up quick service and unlimited toppings. Spinfish has a modernized take on the traditional Hawaiian poke, allowing customers to load up on as many toppings and sauces that their heart desires. Whether customers want to try one of their made to order dishes  or create their own and customize it, Spinfish is a good option for poke in the Santa Monica area.


10. Pokeland

 THOUSAND OAKS - 1396 Moorpark Rd. | (805) 777-8898 | www.pokelandventura.com

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Pokeland, much like it’s competitors, allows customers to pick a size and base option for their poke bowl, followed by their protein and topping choices from a wide range of options. They offer everything from albacore and yellowtail to pineapple and furikake. What sets Pokeland apart from other restaurants is their sauces. From spicy mayo to their house made wildfire sauce, Pokeland employees then hand-mixed the protein choices in the sauce. Pokeland is solid poke chain for customers in the area looking to build their own poke bowl. MM

Holly Bieler