Hai Poke (Columbus, OH)

We Have To Go Back!

Mollie and I have been haunted by Hawaii ever since venturing there for our honeymoon–so much so that anything that reminds us of the sights, sounds, smells and TASTES of the islands spurs a wistful sigh from us both. In fact, we often find ourselves repeating Jack Shepard’s words to Kate from Lost (that was famously shot in Oahu): “We have to go back!”. It was no surprise that when we were debating on where to grab a quick bite before a concert and saw Hai Poke on High St. in Columbus, we knew our decision was made for us.

While fast-casual poke restaurants have become a bit of a recent hipster trend, that’s a fad we are FULLY behind! For the uninitiated, poke is a Hawaiian dish of raw marinated seafood that sprung from the mix of Polynesian and Asian populations of the Hawaiian islands. The traditional tuna poke is usually a simple dish of raw tuna, soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions, but since growing in popularity has almost evolved into its own genre of food. Many restaurants now offer up poke Chipotle-style, letting people choose a bed of various rices or greens to eat their choice of protein on that’s then topped with any number of toppings that customers would like to experiment with.

I decided to go with their “traditional” bowl that consisted of tuna on sushi rice topped with pickled cucumbers, avocado, jalapeños, red onions, spicy bean sprouts, wonton chips, spicy mayo, scallions, sesame seeds and “power sauce”. While this is far from traditional Hawaiian poke (and I’m not sure what “power sauce” is) it was fresh, crunchy, spicy, and creamy, with bright citrus acidity from what I suspect is ponzu and a little lime, and salt/umami from the soy sauce and roasted sesame oil and seeds. Basically the poke bowl hit a perfect flavor balance from every direction.

Thankfully, Hai Poke also had another perfectly Hawaiian classic to partner with the poke bowl: Spam Musubis! The only other thing I could’ve asked for was a Hawaiian McDonald’s fried apple pie… maybe next time.

With dreams of Hawaii haunting us again, we had to again utter “We have to go back!” while savoring our poke bowls and musubis, but if we closed our eyes, for a split second at least, we were.

Hai Poké
647 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215


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