Words, photos and video by Kari Lau
Recently, I overcame my long time hatred of fish, and the only fish related dish that I can eat is poke. So, in the past few months I have tried a multitude of poke dishes all over the island. Some have managed to satisfy me, but I would end up disappointed. The main suspect of the let down was a fishy flavor that lingered.
So, when I came to Poke & Box — a booth located right outside of Ala Moana’s Makai Market — I feared that I’d be dissatisfied, but instead it exceeded my expectations.
I dived into the food without hesitation. First I tried the gochujang chicken with the rice and kimchi. The gochujang was not spicy as I had anticipated; it had more of a subtle sweet flavor. As for the chicken, there wasn’t anything particularly spectacular, the only thing I can recall is that it was cold from the refrigeration. In terms of the kimchi, it strayed from my expectations of being spicy. Instead, it was fresh and surprisingly sweet, kind of like a honey flavor.
Now, fast forward to the highlight of the experience: the ahi with shredded nori on top. At the time, I was a little reluctant to eat it, because of my fear of tasting that fishy flavor. However, as soon as I ate it, I was surprised. The ahi did not only have a flavor, but it melted in my mouth. The whole melting action of the ahi had me seriously shook.
As for the marinade, it was also underwhelming, but not so bland that you couldn’t taste anything. In fact, with each bite I took, a slight mayonnaise flavor that lingered. Overall, I was satisfied with the meal, but what made the already delectable ahi taste even better, was their shredded nori companion. Together the soft and crunchy textures made a wonderful combination for me to devour.
On another note, I want to give a quick shoutout to the pickled choi sum. I definitely appreciated the light salty, sour flavor which was an excellent accompaniment to the other foods!
For those who are curious about the interior of Poke & Box, there is a bar in which the staff would assemble customers’ poke dishes, and in each section of the bar was a particular aspect of the item you’d order. For instance, there was the choices section, poke sauce section, poke toppings section, etc. The bar also acted as a barrier between the staff and customers with the use of a glass wall. In the back corner, there was a fridge with a range of drinks including water, apple juice, sodas, and more.
The establishment had a mix of wooden, white, and yellow geometric walls. The front of the restaurant had glass walls, which made the place appear bigger than it actually was. There were also clean, white counters which gave the place a modern edge. The overall aesthetic resembled a modern yet homey feel.
All in all, I’d say that this place has definitely upped my standards for poke. For all poke lovers and even haters, I suggest you give this place a try, because you will not be disappointed. Don’t fret if you are vegetarian or vegan because they also have a tofu option.
Head on over to Ala Moana’s Poke & Box for an awesome poke experience.
Ala Moana Center, Makai Market Food Court,
1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu
Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.