Have you caught Canada’s new craze, the Poke Bowl, yet? While it may seem like a new trend, this simple and addictive dish has been around for centuries. It is pronounced, “poke-ay” and for those of you who do not know what it is, it comes from the verb for “section” or “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian. Poke is HUGE in Hawaii, and you can find it almost everywhere there. Traditionally poke is raw fish, cut into thick cubes and is usually marinated in soy and sesame sauce. Some say it is like ceviche, but ceviche is more acidic whereas poke has more bold and savoury flavours. It is often served in a bowl on top of rice, or with a tortilla or taro chip, or on a spoon. Some places are even serving inside a burrito. The idea of eating a bowl as a meal is becoming a big trend in North America, starting to become popular in LA around 2014 and finally arriving in Toronto recently. After all, it is a quick, cheap and easy way to get a meal all in one. It’s healthy, delicious and unique.
The Big Tuna Poke Bar at 599 Bloor Street West, was one of the first spots to open in the summer of 2016. Tucked into a tiny and brightly lit spot just west of Mirvish village, is this ten seat eatery. It is extremely casual with stools set along long counters, with salvaged wood and exposed brick details.
The quality of poke relies heavily on the freshness of the fish, and young owner, Anh Tran, who is of Vietnamese heritage, has fish delivered daily from suppliers like City Fish. There are four signature bowls, like The Big Kahuna – a classic tuna poke with cucumbers, sweet onions, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds and sesame oil, in a classic ponzu sauce and served with a few taro chips. You can have a small bowl for $10.95 or a large one for $12.95. You can have a choice of brown or white rice for your bowl. If you are extra hungry you can get extra fish for $5, but I found the portions on the large size to be just fine. You can also order extra toppings for an additional price. We added avocado for $1. There are also two salmon bowls, one is spicy, called The Ninja, that comes with wasabi peas and spicy mayo, or The El Guapo, a Mexican style with a salsa verde topping. There is even a vegetarian bowl, The Green Ranger, with tofu, pickled shiitake, cucumbers, carrots and macadamia nuts. Or you can choose to create your own bowls with a bevy of toppings, which are made in-house, such as pickled daikon, cabbage, taro chips, pickled beets, seaweed, corn, salsa, avocado and so on.
They have a liquor licence and they serve a selection of only beers and sakes, as well as juice and sodas.
The Big Tuna, is opened Tuesday’s through Sunday from 12pm till 10pm.
The Owner says his bowls may not be authentically Hawaiian but his bowls have evolved to fit the place, people and available ingredients.
This is no doubt one of the first places in a wave of poke shops that is sure to flood the city.
Recommended! Affordable and cheerful!