Firstly, I want to say that I sympathize with the fact that running a business, on Robson Street of all places, in Vancouver is a tough job. The rents are high, the foot traffic is sporadic and a lot of the people are spoiled brats. The behaviour by one customer in Poke Time yesterday was appalling. If I hadn’t been so tired I would have said something to her (the unruly customer) but instead I just shot her looks of disgust and disapproval. Luckily for her, the people working at Poke Time were VERY patient and kind and treated her like they did all other customers, very well.
Unfortunately, Poke Time’s food was not on par with the service. Although there was a line up out the door, I would not return to this place – unless it was for the Pineapple Dole Whip, specifically. Poke is one of the new (to this city) trends to hit the frantic foodie streets of Vancouver. It’s not hard to understand why – the food is asian-esque and we have a huge Asian population here. Poke bowls are basically deconstructed sushi rolls: sushi rice, raw fish and asian inspired toppings. Poke Time even offers you the option of rolling up your poke bowl selection into a “Sushiritto” – that you can then have rolled in Cheeto dust?
I get it, it’s trendy but is it good? Well, to be fair, I was blown away by my first poke bowl at Pacific Poke in Chinatown (thanks for introducing me to it Mo!). The flavours were fantastic, the fish was fresh, the store was clean and beautiful and the service was exceptional. I was lucky, my first introduction was a good one.
Poke Time’s service was exceptional but the space was tiny and cramped and didn’t appear to be that clean (granted we came during the lunch rush). The store itself is narrow and leaves little room for moving around. The poke experience here is more of an assembly line. As my friend noted, it felt more like “fast food” than anything else. To be fair, the prices do reflect this – Poke Time is considerably cheaper than Pacific Poke (and it shows in the quality of the fish…) You do have an array of toppings but none of them were that tasty. The sauces were good but again nothing exceptional (I ended up adding soy sauce to the dish to make up for the lack of taste).
What disappointed me the most was the actual fish selection at Poke Time. Firstly, there was no Sockeye Salmon – your only salmon option was farmed (and I don’t fuck with that shit – AT ALL) The only other option that really appealed to me was the Hawaiian Marinated Ahi Tuna. It looked really nice but the taste and texture was NOT there. In fact, I pretty much ate everything but the tuna. It was mushy, lacking flavour and there were pieces that were simply impossible to chew. My friend had the same issue with her dish (she ordered The Hawaiian Original bowl that included the Ahi Tuna).
Funnily enough, she brought up the fact that maybe the problem wasn’t Poke Time but that our oceans are just shit now. Maybe, with all the pollution and bull crap that we’ve been spewing into our waters for years (and by years I mean decades) we have truly compromised the integrity of our oceans and the fish we eat. It was a point that I hadn’t even thought of but damn was she on to something! What if? How sad… And to be honest, the proliferation of poke places around North America sure isn’t helping our increasingly out-of-control consumption of fish and other marine life. We are fucking up our oceans y’all.
Anyways, sorry I know that review took kind of a dark turn but this is the stuff that interests me. If you want to read a cookie cutter style review of the latest restaurant openings there are HUNDREDS of people doing that in Vancouver (and some of them do it pretty well – no shade). If you want to be in the know of “the best sushi restaurants in the West End” well, there’s an app for that (Yelp, Zomato etc). Me? I love food, don’t get me wrong. But … my mind won’t let me think about a poke bowl in a vacuum. I think about the food source and the scarcity of the product. Why am I even eating this? Is it just because it’s “trendy”? Is it because I’m constantly bombarded with photos of poke on Instagram – thanks to following primarily “foodie” accounts?
But I digress.
And for the sake of ending this post on a happy note, the pineapple Dole Whip was bomb.com!