As much as I encourage going vegetarian or even cutting meat out of meals, I will be the first to say that sometimes vegetarian meals lack flavor.
There is only so much I can do with a block of tofu, an ingredient that’s notorious for being stubborn and somewhat bland. Since I’m a sixteen-year-old student, my idea of being a “chef” equates to adding hot sauce to a microwave meal instead of trying to coax a Ratatouille-approved plate out of the somber Extra Firm tofu sitting in my fridge.
In most instances, I find myself making the somewhat-unwise and yet the always-delicious decision of trying a new restaurant.
That whim, enjoyable in the moment yet wallet-devastating to view when checking my bank statements, is what brought me to Poke Toki, a restaurant located little ways away from Ada and closer to Northview.
Sitting between a nail salon and a Great Clips—totally unnecessary information that for some reason makes me chuckle—the outward appearance of Poke Toki is like any other: a little bland, uniform, but somewhat mysterious.
For having 4.9 stars on Google with over 200 reviews, Poke Toki retains an unassuming appearance; there’s no flashy signs or anomalous decorations. Yet, I didn’t notice the apperance as much as my love for poke bowls (read Wikiwiki Poke Bowls review) led me straight through the door with no questions.
To interrupt my casual retelling of events of Poke Toki, poke bowls are Hawaiian in origin. Most variations of these bowls have raw fish, rice, and other add-ons. Recently, they’ve gained notoriety as a food, and more and more restaurants are beginning to serve it, yet they almost always have meat.
Meat is a no-go (in my case), so I have been unable to eat Wikiwiki and have instead been left with a never-ending life-debilitating craving. Not to be dramatic, but I really, really like poke bowls— dare I even say love.
So when I sauntered into Poke Toki alongside my friend Bre (see cover photo), I fully expected to have to substitute part of the poke bowl experience, skipping out on the meat.
I even prepared myself for a whole imaginary conversation I had begun rehearsing before even reaching the register. But to my surprise, the two workers—young, smiling guys—immediately boasted about the variety of options Poke Toki offered. From tofu to salmon, the shop was set up like a build-your-own poke bowl as well as offering preset options in case you wanted something quick and easy.
Each of the ingredients offered there is fresh, and almost all of them were new to me. As I began designing my bowl, electing a sushi rice base with every mix-in (shredded egg, sweet onions, marinated shiitake, and more), I stumbled upon foods I’d never even heard of.
This impressed me yet also intimated me; I’m not always a bold eater, but something about the staff being knowledgeable and welcoming made me nod yes to every food they offered. Yes to spicy tofu, yes to kanpyo, yes to daikon radish. I trusted their recommendations and, to my amazement, the variety of flavors worked.
The variety worked so well.
The dried seaweed I added along with tempura crunch perfectly offset the juicy mango, and the spicy tofu was unlike anything I could ever dream of making. All of the flavors in one bowl each made a home in my mouth, yet they didn’t flood into each other and overwhelm me. They sat in unrepeatable harmony, attesting to the knowledge and quality of Poke Toki.
I had ordered all of these ingredients in the large bowl—no shame to my appetite here—and a soda cup for a total of $20 as I added a small tip for the staff’s help.
And I recognize that it is expensive, especially for food not at a sit-down-and-be-served restaurant, but it is quality unlike any other; the food was phenomenal, and it’s all personal. With the help of the staff—some of the nicest employees I’ve ever met—you can have a different experience each time, and I know that from my own wildly drastic experiences.
I’ve now eaten there eight times, and I’ve brought people with me each time.
I’ve gone so often because it’s food that makes you want to smile without making you hobble out of the building, stuffed on grease and fat. And it’s food that makes you talk about it. I’ve tried even recruiting the pickiest of eaters (my former self) to come with me since I can’t stop thinking about it.
And it’s food I highly recommend; despite being somewhat far from Forest Hills, a 20-minute drive from my house, my google maps sometimes displays Poke Toki’s location during lunch hours, and that’s a definite message from the government if you ask me.
Hopefully, after publishing this story, I’ll have been there a ninth time as Poke Toki, making the trip once more for all the right reasons.