Thursday, August 17, 2017

Poké and other Chicago Treats and Trends

Poke Poké is a new restaurant in Chicago which follows what I understand to be a hot new trend! We've seen the traditional Hawaiian version in grocery-store counters and local eateries in Hawaii, though I don't recall trying any on our many visits to the Big Island and elsewhere. The title of a Washington Post article says it all: "Hawaiian poke has never been trendier. But the mainland is ruining it."

Publicity photo from Poke Poké restaurant in the Palmer House building in Chicago.

Neon Signage in the restaurant -- Miriam's photos.
We all enjoyed various poké bowls for lunch as we were about to drive back from Chicago to Michigan last Sunday. I had a vegetarian bowl with some quite delicious sauces. Authentic? Well, I really don't care about that as much as Maura Judkis, the WaPo writer!

"It’s not just that poke tastes better when you’re in Hawaii," says Judkis. "It’s that mainland restaurateurs, bandwagoning on what they see as the biggest trend of the year, have changed it into something altogether different — something that people from Hawaii say doesn’t respect their cultural heritage. It plays into an impassioned debate in the food world now about whether a dish prepared outside its original context is an homage or crosses the line into appropriation."

I find that debate pretty tired. Trends are trends, and poke from Hawaii was already a type of fusion cooking with ingredients and flavors from several sources. According to The Food of Paradise, Rachel Laudan's encyclopedic book on Hawaiian cuisine, "Hawaii's unique contribution to fish cuisine... is considered to be poke." (p. 37)

However, the first appearance of poke in Hawaiian cookbooks and references, Laudan says, was in the 1970s; Hawaiians who left the island prior to that did not remember it, though earlier raw fish preparations like lomi and also sushi were known and probably influenced the invention of poke. Laudan says: "The Hawaiians contributed the name and he seasoning with salt and seaweed" as well as the natural love of the local ocean fish, "the Japanese contributed seasonings of soy sauce and the preference for deep-ocean fish," while other Asian and local influences contributed flavors like hot sauce, sesame oil, green onions, and more. (p. 38)

Besides our trendy lunch, we had a very enjoyable dinner on Saturday night at a gastropub called The Gage. Here are a few of our menu choices -- all good!

Thai curry. My main course was trout with delicious roasted vegetables. Len had halibut.
Venison burger and fries (and Evelyn's shirt). 
Strawberry-rhubarb cheesecake.

A sundae with chocolate chips and a chocolate chip cookie. Our third dessert: chocolate creme brulee.


Judee@gluten Free A-Z Blog said...

i'm up for the vegetarian poke too. I've never been to Hawaii and I'm not sure I really understand what poke style is??? Everything looks delicious and thanks for all the background about this new trend

Beth F said...

I'll have to check the cookbooks I bought when I lived in Hawaii to see if they have recipes.

Carole said...

I must look further into this. Cheers

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I have not yet tried poke, but is a trend for sure in NYC.

Jeanie said...

I don't know this poke thing yet. Interesting.