Poke bars have been in Israel for several years, mainly in Tel Aviv, but can still be considered a very trendy eating experience.
We had our first poke (pronounced pokay) meal ever in the Ra’anana restaurant Poke Bar, whose manager, Yehoshua, is a new immigrant. He made aliyah from Italy only a year ago, with his wife and children, and his family was involved in food businesses in Rome, where he used to live.
Not quite knowing what to expect when we turned up in the restaurant recently, we were somewhat reassured by the fact that the place is called Poke Bar, with a subtext in its official title which reads “Poke and Cocktail.” Although unsure about poke, we certainly knew what a cocktail was.
The poke and cocktail menu
The cocktail menu offered a large choice, and I decided on a Negroni, figuring that the mix of gin, vermouth and Campari might be less calorific than other offerings (NIS 39). My partner chose a whiskey and bourbon and seemed happy with his choice, and got happier with each sip.
It didn’t take long for our first-ever poke bowl to land on our table. It’s a large black ceramic bowl filled with different ingredients. It starts with sushi rice, then comes the fish – in our case, cubes of fresh raw salmon, then shredded carrot and cucumber, edamame, chopped avocado and some beetroot. On the top are pieces of nori seaweed and some almonds. The sauce is the one Israeli children learn to make in first grade, being a mix of ketchup and mayonnaise.
In fact, although it’s considered bad form to mention sushi at all in poke establishments, the whole thing is like a deconstructed sushi on a plate.
We had to ask for soy sauce, and once this was added, the whole thing came together and tasted great (NIS 49/59).
For our main course Yehoshua said he would bring us fish and chips, the chosen fish being Denis (in English, sea bream). They are usually dainty little silvery things, but this one was colossal. Deep-fried and crispy on the outside, the fish was snowy white, just coming off the bone and a total delicacy (NIS 65).
The french fries were larger than usual so may well have been freshly made and not the standard frozen kind. Ketchup was provided, and it was lovely to be able to dip a chip in it, and taste something ordinary and reminiscent of one’s childhood food.
We drank a marvelous Chardonnay from the La Vie winery with a powerful bouquet, and it made the ideal accompaniment to our fish meal.
For dessert we shared what was described as “mango cake.” This was a thin sponge soaked in orange coloring with a bright yellow icing. I couldn’t detect the mango flavor at all. The addition of parve cream only made matters worse (NIS 45).
Over the years I have used many restaurant toilets without locks and have become quite an expert in keeping the door closed with one leg. This door was far too big for the frame allotted to it and this made the job twice as difficult. They should find a good carpenter, urgently.
In spite of some of the negative things I have mentioned, Poke Bar was a very interesting culinary experience, and I urge open-minded readers to have a go. You might find that poke (which originated in Hawaii) is actually your dream food.
Poke Bar: Poke and Cocktail71 Ahuza, Ra’ananaTel: (09) 866-8888Open: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.Kashrut: Ra’anana Rabbinate
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.