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Poke Tailored to Your Taste Buds

5 Fusion opens a sister restaurant focused on the popular raw fish dish

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It's all about what you like when you build your own bowl at Poke Row. - LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe
  • It's all about what you like when you build your own bowl at Poke Row.

Poke, a Hawaiian raw fish dish, has been gaining popularity in recent years and shows no sign of stopping. You can find it everywhere from the supermarket to trendy restaurants. Poke Row, the newest restaurant in Northwest Crossing, is completely poke-focused in a fast, casual setting. Co-owner Justin Chu said he decided to open Poke Row with his mother, Lilian Chu, "after visits to Hawaii and the recent boom of poke shops in major cities. I was inspired by the simplicity yet delicious combinations a customer can build. It is healthy and fast."

Poke Row's concept is like Chipotle, but with raw fish. Diners order at the counter, choosing the size of the bowl; a small comes with two proteins, the large three. The "base" includes white rice, mixed greens or a mixture of both. Proteins include yellowfin tuna, albacore, salmon or spicy tuna. If you aren't into raw fish, you can choose tofu or chicken.

Mix-ins include cucumber, mango, pineapple, jalapeno, edamame, sweet onion, carrot or sesame seed. Mix and match your sauces, including sesame soy, spicy mayo, spicy yuzu, sweet ginger soy or wasabi aioli. Additional toppings include avocado, green onion, tobiko (flying fish roe), ginger, wasabi, toasted seaweed, furikake (a lightly salted Japanese condiment), seaweed salad, crispy noodles and fried onion.

If that process feels a little overwhelming, start with the NWX signature bowl.

Chu says, "The NWX bowl was developed after our team, along with friends, sampled a variety of bowls, and felt this was one of the best combinations put together that a customer new to poke would enjoy." That combo is albacore, salmon, mango, sesame soy, spicy yuzu, avocado, green onions, sesame seeds, crispy noodles and toasted seaweed.

On my first visit I tried the NWX signature bowl with rice. It was delicious, the fish was fresh, and the texture was on point with the crispy noodles. It had a nice balance of savory with a little sweet from the mango.

I have to admit I'm a little intimidated by how many choices there are. On my second visit I asked Chef Tyler Shen to choose my bowl for me. He selected rice, salmon, yellowfin tuna, spicy tuna, cucumber, edamame, carrots, mango, sweet onions, sesame soy, spicy mayo, crispy fried onions, furikake, seaweed salad, ginger, tobiko and avocado.

I sat in the dining room to enjoy my "Tyler bowl" while "That's All" by Phil Collins played. The vibe is clean and modern, bordering on sterile. My Tyler bowl was really good, and it converted me into a huge tobiko fan. The fish roe added a crunchy texture because the tiny eggs pop in your mouth with a salty liquid. The sweet, sharp ginger was also a great addition and acted as a nice palate cleanser. My second bowl taught me that there probably aren't any bad combos.

After getting the vibe that this concept could easily be a franchise, I asked Chu if they had plans for a second location. He said, "Yes, we are considering opening up a second location—but that will not come until we have perfected the operations of our flagship location."

Poke Row is great for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. And true to the Bend lifestyle, you can even take sake, beer or wine to go.

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