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Poké Battle (not that kind)

Art by Brett Corpuz

Poké (pronounced poh-kay) is a Hawaiian Dish in which fresh raw fish is incorporated with many other ingredients like corn and rice, making a delightful bowl right out of the sea. Whether you’ve heard of it or not, here in Eagle Rock reside two Poké restaurants that both sell this dish. There are many factors that make a restaurant great, such being the environment, the variety, the time and price, and the quality of the food. That said, I went out to both of these restaurants, All About Poké and Poké Shack, to see which reigns in Eagle Rock; which one that I can proudly say has the dish best served cold and prove what really is the best Poké place to go to.

1) Environment

All photos by Cedric Mallari

Both restaurants have very different designs despite the food they serve. All About Poké has more parking space in front (if that matters) compared to Poké Shack. Additionally, they also have more seats and chairs for you and your friends to dine in. The ambiance for both places is also very different. In All About Poké we have an orange colored wall and hung-up portraits of fish, but Poké Shack encapsulates that Hawaiian mood much more. With the tidal wave, the surfboard, and the warm lighting, Poké Shack’s interior really has a personality unlike All About Poké. Not to mention, Poké Shack has a bathroom too which All About Poké does not. Unless you’re bringing more than six friends, Poké Shack is probably the best bet if you’re going to dine in.

2) Variety of fish and toppings

Variety is important when coming to Poke, given its customizability. For fish, both restaurants serve roughly the same things: tuna, albacore, salmon, tuna, shrimp, or tofu. But if you’re craving a bowl with octopus and scallops, All About Poké offers that protein, unlike Poké Shack. When it comes to toppings, Poké Shack dominates. Poké Shack has every topping that All About Poké offers, along with a handful of others such as more sauces like sweet chili or sesame garlic mayo, or shiitake mushrooms and kimchi. If not having scallops or octopus is fine with you, Poké Shack should be your go-to.

3) Other options besides poké

Besides vegan options like a salad, both restaurants offer and share at least one side dish, poké nachos. However, if you want something to go alongside your bowl of poké, it’s best that you go to Poké Shack instead. The restaurant offers smoked & slow-cooked kalua pork soft tacos and sandwiches, spicy miso noodle soup, and shiitake mushrooms. Poké Shack offers a surprising amount of desserts, varying from NY-style cheesecake, and flourless chocolate cake, to even Dole Whip. Sometimes Poké Shack also offers unique dishes that twist the idea of poké, like toast topped with poké or “The Upside Down” poké, which recently got put on the menu. All About Poké on the other hand? Just an ice cream macaron.

4) Time and price

We all know that money is time and time is money. For the two bowls that I purchased at Poké Shack, it took about 6 minutes and 10 seconds for my order to arrive upon swiping my credit card away at the register. Yet when it comes to All About Poké, they serve customers much like a Subway. You say what you want, they put the food in a tray, and build onto it as you go across the counter. That said, it took just about a minute (accounting for my indecisiveness) to get my bowl of poké. Yet, I like the idea of how Poké Shack takes orders with a paper where you just mark down what you want with a bunch of boxes to turn in as your order.

When it comes to price; the base (where you don’t add any toppings that charge for extra) bowl of poké at Poké Shack costs $9.95, while All About Poké’s base bowl of poké costs $13.65. If you want special toppings like salmon and avocado, expect to pay more. My total for one bowl at Poké Shack including salmon and avocado accounts for $10.95. Now if you thought the price gap was that much before, with the extra charge for toppings, All About Poké cost me $15.25. Almost 50% more costly than the bowl I got at Poké Shack.

5) Quality

The quality of food is arguably the most important factor in a restaurant. You can have Gucci plates with 24k golden utensils with a diamond chandelier hanging overhead, but if the food is bad, what's the point other than being flashy? For the sake of comparison, I got two identical bowls with the exact same toppings and everything: A small bowl with white rice and salmon, drizzled with Miso honey and unagi (eel) sauce, topped with scallions, corn, and Maui onion, and finished off with furikake, crabmeat, and avocado (quite the handful). Because this is what I consider the most important factor, that means we need to consider and go really in-depth with it. To cope with so many things in mind when it comes to quality, it will be judged by: fish by itself, rice, presentation, and flavor.