Hawaii is the pinnacle of poke, where islanders have been known to lavish sliced Kahalu big eye tuna with green onion, Maui sweet onion, roasted kukui nut relish, and Kauai Hanopepe salt, which is only available by special barter. They also garnish the fish with a variety of seaweeds, which each instill unique properties. For instance, hulu ‘aina contributes texture, and limu kohu adds a strong iodine taste. Clearly, we’re not going to have the same ingredients handy on the mainland, and chefs are bound to take certain liberties. In L.A., some restaurants serve poke with California flourishes like smoked tofu and edamame (Lemon Moon) or kale (Poke Poke), but let’s focus on fish. Learn about 10 top Los Angeles pokes.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
1. Back Home Poke ($9.59) [CLOSED]
This Hawaiian takeout spot with canary yellow walls and island art resides in Torrance’s Eastgate Plaza, a strip mall adjacent to Mitsuwa market. Ronald Wachi relocated from Manhattan Beach in November, 2013, resurfacing with a grab-and-go concept. His Poke consists of ahi tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, strands of a briny red seaweed called ogo, and raw white onion. Back Home’s savory poke comes with crunchy wonton chips and spicy mustard. The storefront also sells salmon poke with a similar recipe, and a Cali poke that contributes avocado and imitation crab.
2. Guerrilla Tacos Ahi Poke Tostada ($8)
Wes Avila has quickly risen through the ranks of L.A. taqueros as a result of his technique and impeccable sourcing practices. The Pico Rivera native also travels frequently, which informs his ever-changing menu. After traveling to Hawaii with wife Tanya Mueller, he added a knockout poke to the menu. He buys premium ahi at a DTLA fish market and folds the cubes with umami-rich white miso and fiery habanero. The crispy corn disc and snipped scallions provide great textural contrast to the thunderous flavors.
3. Island Eats Hale ‘Aina Poke ($16/lb or with rice for $8)
A location next to a Torrance self-storage center doesn’t typically inspire confidence, but managing partner Todd Matsuoka’s family is originally from Kauai, and he’s helped replicate a number of childhood favorites in a Hawaiian backdrop. The space features a mannequin of a Hawaiian in native garb out front, along with ukeleles for sale on the wall…but oddly, no music. Island Eats poke involves rosy ahi with an especially savory marinade of soy sauce, salt and sesame and scallions, which is probably best with rice, to tame the salt.