Off the Hook Poke Market Brings Fresh Flavors to Mānoa
This tiny shop serves up generous chunks of fish, colorful toppings and its own (top secret) house-made shoyu.
Spicy ‘ahi, left, and Hawaiian-style poke over white rice.
Photos: Terri Inefuku
Honolulu has no shortage of excellent poke, so when someone says they’ve tried some of the best poke in town, it warrants investigation.
Off the Hook, located across the street from Mānoa Marketplace alongside Starbucks and Andy’s Sandwiches and Smoothies, opened in October. When I arrived around 1:30 p.m., two stalls were miraculously available in the building’s notoriously narrow back lot (maneuvering into one felt like an Austin Powers movie, but still).
Inside, the quaint shop has a casual, seaside feel: wood paneling and handwritten chalk signs; fishing poles perched next to a shiny, school-bus yellow surfboard; a perfectly “weathered, salt-stained” accent wall stamped with the eatery’s logo. It’s almost as if the shop’s owners, JP Lam and Tomoki Ito, just walked in off the beach, catch in hand.
In a way, they did. Lam and Ito visit the Honolulu Fish Auction every morning to ensure the freshest fish for their poke, hauling in roughly 200 pounds a day and breaking them down in the back of the shop. (They’re open every day but Sunday, when the auction is closed.)
Off the Hook Poke Market Owners JP Lam, left, and tomoki ito.
Lam previously owned Okome Bento and Sushi in Kapolei—he sold it about a year ago, due to the long commute from his Hawai‘i Kai home—while Ito was the general manager of Yajima-ya restaurant on King Street. They opened Off the Hook to celebrate their love of poke while offering their own spin on the popular local staple.
The display case touts a small but interesting selection of poke, including Hawaiian-style—limu, kukui nut, sliced onion and Hawaiian sea salt—and my favorite, wasabi furikake ‘ahi, with a sharp, creamy seaweed sauce.
The offerings, Lam explains, reflect flavors and cultures they hold dear. Kīlauea Fire, for example, is a nod to Korean gochujang, or red chili paste, with jalapeño, crushed red pepper and watercress. Japan Deluxe, with its sweet miso, ginger and shiso, was inspired by Japanese fishermen who preserved their fish by cooking it in miso. The cold ginger ‘ahi is a play on classic Chinese cold ginger chicken.
Even their “typical” flavors have a twist. “Is there shoyu in here?” my companion asks of the spicy ‘ahi. “Ah, yes!” The fish, Lam reveals, is marinated in house-made shoyu for added flavor, though the recipe is a secret he refuses to divulge. I managed to confirm their style is founded in Japanese sushi techniques, though further prodding proved futile.
Cold ginger ‘ahi, left, and wasabi furikake ‘ahi over sushi rice.
Building our own poke bowls was much easier. We chose our size (regular for $11.99, mini for $9.99), base (white rice or sushi rice for an extra $1), and poke (a two-poke combo costs an extra 50 cents). I requested all four toppings available by the register: furikake, green onion, bright-orange masago and tiny tempura puffs. The verdict: the fish smooth with bold flavors in each bite.
Those who can’t decide can opt for the poke sampler, which consists of all eight original flavors, roughly 1.33 pounds of fish for $25.
The poke sampler.
Photo: Courtesy of off the hook
For dessert, Off the Hook offers mango and strawberry shave ice with all-natural syrups made in-house using fresh fruit.
While the shop is small, there are a handful of tables to sit at both inside and out, and most customers, I observed, took their meals to go. With the add-ons, my bowl came to $13.50, though it was big enough for two meals.
Yes, I owe my family friend big-time for the recommendation.
Most likely via poke bowl.
Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2908 E. Mānoa Road. Follow on Instagram: @offthehookpokemarket.