Rice bowls have gone Hawaiian, and Oak Lawn’s Poké Bop is on-trend

PokeBop at Marple

A rice bowl at the new Oak Lawn eatery Poké Bop serves as a refreshing and filling meal, above; opposite, the clever sushi ‘donut.’ (Photos by Kevin Marple)

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We are in the midst of what can only be described as the Chipotle-ization of American cuisine. In our gluten-fearful, low-fat-sodium-sugar mindset, “fast food” are dirty words. But we’re also in the realm of the share economy of meta-hippies, where flip-flops are seen as appropriate footwear outside of a beach resort and conspicuous consumption feels Trumpian and wrong. That excludes a lot of fine-dining, too.

So, Chipotle: The apotheosis of the fast-casual concept. It’s more than a cafeteria of unrelated items splayed out like workers in a dance hall, waiting to be picked unless something better comes along, and better than the salad bar innovation that, by name alone, identifies as an insular side dish for all but die-hard vegans. Nope, the better fast-casual places offer organic (or at least generally good-for-you) options that you cobble together as you see fit. And nowadays, that includes — nay, mandates — a specialized theme. Burritos. Halal gyros. And now, poké.

Poké has been a staple of the Hawaiian diet for generations, enjoyed for its cleanness and simplicity — traditionally, raw ahi tuna on a bed of rice with a selection of available vegetables stirred in and served in a bowl. It’s like the Polynesian version of a sandwich or a street taco.

But it’s also becomes one of the trendiest foodie faves in Dallas in the past year or so. The structure is chipotleasy: A base, a protein, accessories, sauces. Wrap it in seaweed for grab-and-go convenience. Or leave it in a bowl and imagine yourself on the islands. TJ’s Seafood on Oak Lawn has it as an option; Poké Bar in the West Village weighs in as well. Add to the list the latest gayborhood entry: Poké Bop.

The brightly inviting storefront, next to the Starbucks at Lemmon and Knight, hits all the right buttons. Affordably priced (about $12 for a bowl or roll), it makes poking around the menu user-friendly… or a challenge. Your choice.

The menu board offers more than half a dozen pre-fab recipes: Proteins and toppings designed in-house to highlight the ingredients in their best light. For my first bite, I chose the Satoshi — a fairly traditional combination of spice ahi with sesame (oil and seeds), cucumber, sweet onion, masago (tiny orange fish eggs) and kaiware radish. The medley, from chef/owner Tommy Hwang, really does meld together harmoniously.

OPTIONAL-PokeBop-Poke-DonutStill, I tend to veer more towards the experimental, so on each of my visits, I have ventured into DIY territory. Their poké-rito — a hybrid sushi roll/burrito — requires the sticky green tea rice to adhere well to the nori (seaweed), but from there on, it’s your call. I combined shrimp and bay scallops, then went to town creating my own flavor profile: the bright, crisp edamame; masago again; avocado; a spicy Korean chili bibim sauce; some pickled ginger. Credit my discretion or the server’s execution, but that was a damn good wrap.

I changed gears on another visit, going for a bowl of brown rice mixed with tuna and salmon this time, then ratcheted up a wheel of sweet-to-spicy with mango, pineapple, jalapeno and a top of housemade ponzu in a to-go bowl. The dish travels well, but requires a bit of restraint to not consume it on-site (though there’s ample seating). Protein and carbs are a good way to boost your energy at lunch, especially as refreshing as fresh fish and rice can be.

There’s also a house specialty which they call a donut, though it looks more like a bagel to me: A ring of shrimp-stuffed riced layered in petals of salmon, tuna cucumber, roe and seeds. It’s gorgeous, slightly better looking than it tastes, but what the hell? If you can say you had a donut and got a taste of deconstructed sushi at the same time, you’re at the peak of food trendiness.         

4103 Lemmon Ave. Open daily 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Ilovepokebop.com.


Tasting notes


Just as Poké Bop offers walk-up do-it-yourself service for poké, down in Deep Ellum, Amsterdam Falalfelshop is doing the same for the signature food of the Middle East. The fast-casual restaurant, which opened last summer along Commerce Street, offers a European twist on a street food specialty: A sandwich made of fried chickpeas and spices, served in a pita or a bowl and topped with your choice of flavors, from cucumber to tahini to garlic cream. There’s also a side of Dutch-style fries (don’t call them French!) as well as a shawarma or combo for the adventurous. And most items are vegan or vegetarian-friendly.

The Knife at the Highland brings back its Summer Sunday Cinema Series, with foodie-themed film screenings monthly. For $35 (includes gratuity), audiences will enjoy a complimentary drink and gourmet bites by chef John Tesar. ($10 of the price is donated to the Dallas Film Society.) The sunset showings lineup will be: April 23: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; May 21: The Trip; June. 25: Spinning Plates; Sept. 17: Ratatatouille; Oct. 22: The Lunchbox; and Nov. 12: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

DFW Thai Restaurant Week is back with 23 North Texas eateries participating, including Asian Mint, Bangkok, Pak Pao, Thai Soon and Royal Thai. It begins on Thai New Year (April 13) and runs for a week. For more information on what each restaurant will be serving on its menu as that week’s special, visit DFWThaiRestaurantWeek.com.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 07, 2017.