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Poke bowls have become quite popular these days and I've been seeing them pop up everywhere! We recently tried it ourselves at San Diego Poke Company through a media invite. The restaurant is off the I-15 / Friars Road intersection in the Mission Gorge area and lucky for me, within driving distance from my workplace!
Dennis and I popped in midweek around 7pm and found a line to the door, though it was perhaps only 10 people, since this is a smaller space! ! Waves of people came and went during our visit but the line seemed to move fast.
First, you order at the counter. You can start off with one of the preconfigured bowls or build your own as you go down the line. It's like chipotle but for poke!
There are about 8 choices of seafoods, including fresh tuna, salmon, spicy tuna, albacore, octopus, scallops, etc. A large bowl is 5 scoops of any meat while the regular bowl is 3 scoops. The restaurant occasionally has seasonal items which have included yellowtail and red snapper in the past. There are also several sauces, my favorite being the punny one named "Seoul hottt," even though I can't take the heat myself!
There are plenty of toppings to pick from and surprisingly, all are included! No additional charges for adding krab mix or avocado to your bowl! Load me up please!
I picked salmon, tuna and scallops for this bowl (which was the regular size). I had meant to order the large size so they ended up just adding two additional scoops to my bowl, which worked for me. For non-spicy sauce options, I picked the SNS (sweet and spicy) over the Koko Loko (coconut) sauce. The server mixed the sauce and fish before adding it to the bowl. To top it off, my favorite goodies like edamame, avocado, seaweed and krab packed the bowl! I enjoyed the fresh fish and plethora of toppings, but my favorite had to be how the rice beneath soaked up some of the sauce marinade! I was glad that the use of jalapeno in the SNS sauce was minimal so it didn't burn my mouth at all!
Dennis ordered the OG SD (original) but after all his add-ins and toppings, it was similar to mine although his bowl was deeper (large size). His had albacore, spicy tuna, salmon, tuna, and octopus for the meats. The octopus wasn't as chewy as the last poke place I had visited which was nice.
The desserts we tried included macaron ice cream from which are brought in from LA and some mochi that came all the way from Hawaii. We tried the mango macaron ice cream which was extremely cold, creamy and refreshing. The macaron portion still had some decent chew despite being frozen. The passion fruit flavor of the mochi was overpoweringly sweet for me but that lychee mochi was like eating a slice of chilled sweet fruit, though with a thicker doughy texture. These things were so cold they were hardly melting. Yes!
Here's a random energy drink we tried. At first we didn't realize the drink was taro flavored. The taste was different from other taro foods Dennis had in the past but he thought it was still pretty good.
We talked with Yohei, the owner, who was friendly and enthusiastic about his business. He is originally from Los Angeles but has been in San Diego for about a year due to the restaurant. They started out of a truck at farmer's markets and were able to expand by adding a brick & mortar location. You can still actually find them at certain farmer's markets where they serve their more classic style poke bowls. Of course, you can request them to make it the same way at the restaurant as well! Yohei also mentioned that he was trying to work on a rice burger and we couldn't stop thinking about the possibilities after our visit. Dennis still reminisces about this rice burger at Ocha Cafe, which unfortunately has been closed for years now...
We came back 2 weeks later to check on the rice burger progress. This sign told us everything... it was READY! There were three burger varieties to pick from but the spicy tuna seemed the best choice, since salmon was in pieces and might not stay together as a 'patty.'
I was quite fascinated by the rice bun, which looked like it used Bánh Tráng (the clear rice paper wrapper used for spring rolls) to hold the rice together. They had to carefully unwrap these things before placing in the plastic containers and adding two scoops of spicy tuna on it. The next person proceeded to mix the Oh No sauce and Seoul Hott in a separate bowl, then poured the sauce on top of the tuna! Magically, the burger grew in height as lettuce, seaweed salad and vinegared onions were applied!
After taking a bite of this, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked the rice bun. The rice inside was not mushy and it looks like there was seaweed or green flecks of seasoning mixed in. Furikake? The rice wasn't tasteless by itself but it also didn't overwhelm the rest of the food! Even though the sauce had some heat, it worked with a great balance between spicy tuna, sauce and the simple bun!
We also had the ahi tuna tacos. I loved the fried wonton shells and how we were able to stack additional ingredients just like the poke bowls. Uh yea, I'll take some krab and seaweed on my tacos too! Even though you get four for $10, they are street taco size (not that they'd be bigger at other restaurants) so expect to order more toppings to have your fill.
Initially poke bowls may sound expensive but this is not that much more than the price of one sushi roll at a decent shop and poke bowls provide a decent amount of food. It is a dollar cheaper than Pokirrito but you get one more scoop of meat! For San Diego Poke Company, the poke bowls are definitely the way to go and can make a complete meal, especially the large size one. The burger is unique and worth giving a try. So when is the rice burger trend gonna hit San Diego? hehe.
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine here and our meal was complimentary. We paid for our food on the second visit. We were not otherwise compensated and all opinions stated are our own.
San Diego Poke Company
10387 Friars Rd
San Diego CA 92120