Ahi Poke at California Fish Grill - Irvine
I'm of the opinion that Hawaii's greatest contribution to the world isn't the hula, Don Ho, or those flowery shirts people like to wear on designated casual Fridays at the office--it's poke, the dish of raw marinated fish you would eat with rice if you had some, next to the beach of you were only so lucky.
With all due respect to plate lunches and shave ice, poke, without question, is my favorite Hawaiian food. When I'm lucky enough to be on a flight to paradise, I seek it out the moment the plane touches down on the Tarmac.
I can say that even the most mediocre mounds of poke I had there still far exceeded the best stuff here. I've not yet been brave enough to touch the stuff Whole Foods sells in those self-serve, sneeze-guard-protected islands next to their fishmonger, and I'm really in no hurry to try. Da Luau in Irvine does a decent one, but when I'm there, I'm enjoying their pancake breakfast too much to care about the poke. North Shore Poke Company in Huntington Beach comes pretty darn close, but it's too far.
What it leaves is California Fish Grill, which surprisingly makes a great one when they have it available on special, even if they've, well, Californized it by cutting the fish in cubes so small it can be mistaken for pico de gallo and serving it with tortilla chips instead of plain white sticky rice.
I can excuse it because this poke is not after authenticity, not that that word means anything. Even in Hawaii, the dish has been so bastardized by the waves immigrants that kimchi and shoyu versions are now just as popular as the indigenous one with limu and sea salt.
California Fish Grill's rendition is its own unique kind of awesome and is, by the way, very spicy thanks to a not-so-secret ingredient of Huy Fong Food's seed-inflected chili paste, soy sauce, and green onion.
I admit that it does indeed go well with the fryer fresh chips they serve it with; and yes, I also agree that $6 is a steep price for the pleasure...but then again, have you checked what airlines are charging these days? Now if only I were Larry Ellison.
California Fish Grill
3988 Barranca Parkway #B
Irvine, CA 92606
THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Ennar Calasian Grill - Fountain Valley