By Mitchell Nover
Poké restaurants have been popping up all over Miami for the past year or so. It’s a bubble that’s bound to burst, but the new PÓKEBAR (1558 S Dixie Hwy, Coral Gables), across from the University of Miami campus, seems to have staying power. The first sign is the fact that the restaurant is owned and operated by a 21-year-old college student. Yes, Cristian Marquez opened a damn restaurant while still studying for a degree. Overachieve, much? The second sign of POKÉBAR’s potential for longevity is Cristian’s clear concept and dedication to quality product. He’s not just out to make a buck; this is his dream, and it comes through in the food. That means in sourcing his fish, he aims to use the best and most sustainable raw fish he can find while still maintaining a reasonable price point. This philosophy also extends into all areas of the restaurant’s offerings – from produce to sauces.
Menu highlights: Let’s start with the poké. The best part about POKÉBAR is that the menu is kind of up to you! The “build-your-own” Poké Bowls allow for a variety of different options for you to create for yourself, coming in three different sizes – Snack (one protein), Regular (two proteins), and Large (three proteins). Every bowl comes with the choice of a base (sushi rice, brown rice, quinoa, mixed greens, or zucchini noodles), a choice of protein (tuna, salmon, tofu, chicken, or “catch of the day”), add-ins (basil, cilantro, nori, daikon radish, pineapple, cucumber, edamame, sweet onion, choclo, plantains, shitake mushrooms, scallions, mango, shaved coconut, black beans, microgreens, and arugula), additional toppings (seaweed salad, crab salad, avocado, masago, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, fried garlic, and cancha), and sauce (guava hoisin, Hawaiian traditional, citrus ponzu, yuzu cilantro, wasabi aoili, srirarcha aioli, diablo, ginger teriyaki, or soy sauce). Just pick your favorites and watch your bowl made right before your very eyes.
Of course, for the indecisive (or lazy), there are also ready-made signature items available to order on the POKÉBAR menu, including a variety of bowls, burritos, and additional items. I tried the Tokyo Deli Signature Burrito that brought tuna, salmon, krab meat salad, cucumber, masago, and avocado, as well as the Spicy Tuna Buns, and Chocolate and Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream for dessert.
Standout dish: Sometimes too many options can be too much for me. I can have a hard time editing, so, for me, the Signature Poké Bowls were the way to go, and I opted for the Fidy-50 with salmon, tuna, cucumber, edamame, scallion, mango, seaweed salad, and yuzu sauce over zucchini noodles. The combination of the salmon and tuna is one that any sushi lover knows by now, but the freshness of the cucumber, crunch of the edamame, sweetness from the mango, brininess of the seaweed, and citrusy yuzu all played together in a nice way that left every bite bursting with flavor. And, in an unexpected twist, the zucchini noodles provided a lighter option to the traditional rice base, but still managed to soak up all the delicious juices in the dish. This one’s a home run.
Are we boozing? Not here. Despite having the word “bar” in the name, POKÉBAR is more of a lunch or snack spot and alcohol doesn’t really fit into that’s equation. Taking an afternoon off from the hooch isn’t such a bad thing anyway.
Check this place out if you like: Take your pick from any of Miami’s myriad poké restaurants: Poké 305, PokéBao, Ono Poké Shop, Poké-Che, and more. Burrito San or Kappa Rolls + Bowls are also similar, yet less direct, comparisons.
Mitch’s take: Consider the poké bar raised with POKÉBAR.