Make-Your-Own Poke Bowls at Fresh ‘Ahi Off the Boat in Honolulu
Try the hurricane bowl. Trust us.
pop-pop bowl, $7.75 to $10.75.
Photos: Maria Kanai
You know you live in Hawai‘i when you can get through a whole day eating out of different bowls. Acai bowls, donburi rice bowls and, of course, the classic poke bowl. At its core, the poke bowl is really just a pile of steaming hot rice, glistening raw fish and some kind of flavorful sauce. But the fun starts when we take it a step (or many steps) further: playing with the poke flavor, adding veggies or meat, different rice or a new sauce. The list goes on.
Fresh ‘Ahi Off the Boat opened on Ke‘eaumoku Street across from HMSA at the end of July. While there’s no shortage of poke spots in the area—just down the street, there’s Kyung’s Seafood with killer sashimi—Fresh ‘Ahi’s takes on poke bowls are memorable enough to try again. It’s a no-frills restaurant owned by a cheery Korean family serving their spin on Japanese food. The fish is bought daily from the auction at Pier 38 and taste, well, fresh. Hence the name, a cheeky nod to the term “fresh Off the boat,” or FOB.
local bowl, $9.50.
What’s on the menu: bentos, salads, gyoza, sashimi and make-your-own poke bowls. But really, you come here for the signature bowls. They come with miso soup and a choice of white, brown, sushi or black rice—a fancy name for mixed-grain rice that’s honestly more purple than black.
The tsunami bowl ($9.75) is chock full of flavor, with shoyu poke, teriyaki sauce and spicy mayo glaze, radish sprouts, raw cucumber, purple onion slices and a generous heaping of shredded nori. The pop-pop bowl ($7.75 to $10.75) is good fun: small, crunchy tempura flakes over shoyu ‘ahi with teriyaki glaze and nori flakes. There are no real surprises with the local bowl ($9.50): lomi lomi salmon, kālua pig and your choice of ‘ahi. It’s a bit ho-hum, we thought, but what do we know; it’s also one of their most popular dishes, according to the cashier. The spicy ‘ahi, by the way, comes with a ground-up texture, À la the stuff at ‘Ahi and Vegetable. We prefer a stronger flavor with less mayo, more spice, and, as purists, we prefer poke in chunks, not mashed.
Hurricane Bowl, $10.75.
But Fresh ‘Ahi shines most with the hurricane bowl ($10.75). Piled high with cucumber slices, watercress, radish sprouts, shredded carrots, masago and nori flakes, we crunched through the colorful veggies to the ‘ahi and salmon poke and, finally, the rice at the bottom. We thought it’d all be a hot mess, but somehow the whole thing works, and the heavy drizzle of red Kochujang sauce pulls everything together.
Fresh ‘Ahi Off the Boat, 815 Ke‘eaumoku St., J-101; Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., freshahi.com, 947-4444