"I'm not surprised poke is becoming so popular in the continental U.S., just surprised that it took so long," Hawaii-based food writer Martha Cheng recently told Eater. "People already love sushi, raw fish, and ceviche; poke seems like a natural inclusion." Indeed. Now poke (pronounced poh-kay) has migrated north of the border, to downtown Montreal. Le Poké Bar, from principal Noubar Mouradian, opens today on Crescent street, between Sherbrooke and de Maisonneuve. The restaurant's namesake is not all that different in substance from Japanese-style chirashi bowls; well familiar to regulars of Kazu, Nozy, Marusan, and sundry izakayas around town. At Le Poké Bar, patrons can order custom bowls of the Hawaiian staple, made to order, assembly line style, with salmon, tuna, shrimp, and a wide range of fixins to boot.
Alan Wong, a revered Hawaiian chef, provided Eater with some more poke context this past January: "A long time ago, it was sustenance and a way to eat and survive. Poke in Hawaii was originally reef fish, scored and seasoned only with sea salt, seaweed, or roasted kukui [a type of nut]. Fast-forward to today, and it has survived all these years, getting more creative as the years go by." And more prevalent too. Look closely, and poke restaurants, and media nods to poke, are suddenly everywhere. Whether fish stocks can keep pace with poke's surge in popularity outside of Hawaii, especially as the prospect of a Chipotle-like poke juggernaut looms, is a valid question that mirrors the rise of sushi over the decades. Beyond that, rejoice Montreal, poke has landed. And ICYMI, the city's about to get another poke restaurant, from the owner of Biiru, Escondite, and La Habanera.
Status: Le Poké Bar, 2153 Crescent, (514) 903-6777, now open Monday to Sunday for lunch.