Life frequently comes into focus on foot. That was certainly the case on a recent run along the oceanfront boardwalk on a glorious winter day. My eyes scanned the long-forlorn strip for signs of new culinary life, and on the return leg, across from Muscle Beach, they found paydirt – Poke Poke – a Hawaiian-inspired raw fish emporium that probably serves the best lunch in Venice, especially when it’s 75 degrees and sunny.
Owners Trish McVearry and husband Jason previously lived in Hawaii, in Kaimuki and on the North Shore of Oahu, which is where they fell for poke. They learned how to make the dish, which, according to Poke Poke’s website, is usually available “to-go, deli style at gas stations and convenience stores.” After moving Stateside, Trish oversaw 26 luxury brands for Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn before entertaining wealthy customers for a luxury watch brand in Los Angeles. Trish got laid off, so last November, she decided to live a less lavish lifestyle (which didn’t require a 24/7 commitment), opening a poke stand.
The redeveloped three-window strip is owned by the same company that resuscitated Muscle Beach. Poke Poke occupies a former empanada shop and shares kitchen space with Sababa Middle Eastern Food and Schulzies Bread Pudding, which surprisingly houses a Blue Bottle pourover coffee bar.
The McVearrys nicknamed this healthy but flavorful dish The Surfers’ Sashimi, a name also fits with its Venice beach environs.
We had the option to add chopped jalapeños or another Hawaiian flavor, macadamia nuts, but we took the prescribed oceanic medicine.
A “regular” 12-ounce poke costs $6 over rice, or $8 with more tuna and a “large” 16-ounce poke costs $10 over rice and $12 with more tuna.
They only offer two other dishes at Poke Poke, and during the second visit, my friend Adam and I ordered them both.
Poke Poke’s website said poke’s “best if eaten with cold beer near the sea.” No doubt, but since they have no open container policy on Venice Beach, my options consisted of Hawaiian Sun, soda or water. Not that it mattered considering the winning combination of sun, surf and seafood.