The poké (poh-kay) bowl is a recent food craze that has swept through Australia. And it’s almost as new to the rest of the world: poké originated in Hawaii and quickly travelled through to the entirety of America. Adelaide got its first proper taste at this year’s RCC, and ever since, poké bowls have been appearing on the menus of some of Adelaide’s most popular restaurants, including Hokopo, Electra House, and Beach Bum.
To be specific, a poké bowl is a Hawaiian dish that mostly consists of raw fish and vegetables, and occasionally incorporates Japanese elements through their seasoning. Poke Me’s poke bowls have been modernised to fit Australian culture.
Leigh says, “traditional poké bowls aren’t very Australian in the way in which they’re constructed. We wanted to do something that reflects Australia’s multiculturalism and celebrates the influence of Asian culture on the food we eat regularly. Ours have a Japanese inspired twist – our poké is like a deconstructed sushi bowl. We wanted to make poké the new sushi – ten years ago, sushi wasn’t the sort of thing you’d suggest to get for lunch, whereas now it’s a staple. We want to do that with poké, as it’s growing so fast.”
Leigh was originally inspired by the popularity of poké in America. He travels to the States four times a year. “I recognised the rapid growth of poké bowls, and saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the Australian market. I was impressed with how clean and healthy it is, and how it caters for so many people.”
After opening his first store in Melbourne’s South Yarra, Poké Me has become a favourite of celebrity patrons such as Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster-Blake and The Project’s Carrie Bickmore. While other nearby poké restaurants are more traditionally orientated, such as by including pineapple in their dishes, Poké Me has established a point of difference by being health-conscious and Asian-inspired.
Poke Mé’s poké bowls place emphasis on nutrition, clean-eating, and health consciousness. Traditional poké incorporates rice, but in Poke Me’s, you can substitute it with additional vegetables.
“A good option is our green base,” Leigh explains, “it includes green apple and quinoa. We have great variety for vegetarians and vegans, something which is always in-demand. Or, you can go for an alternative of mixed brown or black rice. You can also stick to the traditional raw fish – sashimi, tuna, and salmon, or you try poached chicken or tofu.”
Poké Me also offers their version of sushi: they have four kinds of sushi doughnuts available, as well as fruit-infused Konnichi Water.
“We’ve also teamed up with Love Tea to include functional teas into the menu,” Leigh says, “they compliment the poké by being nutritious – one tea is for digestion, one is calming, and one is for detox.”
All food is local and sustainable. Produce is from local growers and this will continue as Poké Me expands into other states. The chicken and fish is free-range – Leigh places importance on having “the freshest of the fresh.” Poké Me has also created their own sauce range, which is made in-house. Poké Me has become so popular, that less than a year into business, they have partnered with Swisse to regularly provide meals for their employees and have set up catering for corporate spaces.
How does Leigh think Poké will do in Adelaide? “At the RCC, the reception was massive,” Leigh says, “the first week was informing people what poké is, but by the end, we had so many repeat customers that were happy they could eat so clean. I think Poké will do really well.”
Leigh mentions that he chose to set up Poké Me in the CBD not only because of high traffic, but because it was the perfect location to fit right in with the demographic: of health conscious professionals, university students, and people constantly on-the-go. “Its location in Gawler Place is perfect because everyone knows where it is. We can capitalise on the late trade and still draw in a good crowd, and it has 15 loading zones perfect for the fast food concept, as people can quickly park their cars, jump out, and grab their food.”
Leigh is positive Poké Me will expand in the future, “Adelaide will definitely expand to 2-3 stores really quickly. Melbourne is already expanding, we are about to launch Hawthorne and CBD. We hope to launch in the Sydney and The Gold Coast.”
Stay tuned for official launch date.