Poke, Sandwiches and Plates Stay Supah ‘Ono at Monarch Poke in ‘Aiea

Next time I coming for da lobster poke, brah.


Monarch Poke Outside Pc Lee Tonouchi

Photo: Lee Tonouchi


Monarch Poke, da new poke place in ‘Aiea, took ova da stall for what used to be Sakana Express in Pearl Kai Shopping Center. While me and da family wuz waiting in line, da lady in front of me wen ask da same question I wuz wondering. “Are you related to Monarch Seafoods in Kalihi?” Da cashier wen tell, “Nooo, but they’re good too. They’ve been around forever.” Wuz so nice, da way she answered. I wondered if planny people been asking.


I seen that Monarch Poke had posted one picture of their lobster poke so das what initially got me hyped about checking dis place out. But nevah have da lobster poke on dis particular day. Da cashier said follow dem on top Instagram for see when dey might offer ’em again. So for our poke we went with da less common California Poke and da Tofu Poke that looked like had cold ginger chicken sauce on top.


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For our plates, I asked what their most popular dishes wuz. She said da Laulau & Kalua Pig Cabbage (aka Hawaiian Plate), Miso Braised Pork Belly, and Garlic Shrimp wuz definitely their top three. I kinda had my eye on some of their more unusual choices like da Ahi Belly Ginisang, Tamarind Glazed Pork Ribs and Bagoong Fried Rice, but since wuz our first time we decided for go with da flow and get da people’s choices. Plus we got one Katsu Sando for one of our keiki and da Seared Mahi Mahi Sandwich for my aunty. All da entrées came with choice of white rice, brown rice or garlic rice, and either mac salad or toss salad. And da salads come with choice of calamansi, papaya seed or lemon miso vinaigrette dressing.


Here’s da dish-by-dish review.


California poke, market price

Supa ‘ono! Kinda like one California roll but in poke form. Had ‘ahi mixed with imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, green onion and tobiko in one spicy mayo sauce. I would keep coming back jus for dis.


Monarch Poke Tofu Poke Pc Lee Tonouchi

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Tofu poke, 75 cents per ounce

Cold ginger chicken sauce taste-es good with pretty much everyting. Tofu wuz no exception. Dis Tofu Poke wuz winnahs.


Monarch Poke Hawaiian Plate Pc Lee Tonouchi

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Hawaiian plate, $25

Monarch Poke’s Hawaiian Plate came with lau lau, kalua pig cabbage, poi, chile peppah waddah, lomi salmon and choice of sides. Wuz pork kine lau lau with little bit of what looked like salmon inside. We thought dis could’ve been one dash more flavorful, but da kalua pig cabbage and lomi salmon wuz outstanding. Usually those tings is just afterthoughts. Da kalua pig cabbage wuz cooked to perfection, not like wuz sitting around for hours and all soggy. And da lomi salmon tasted like wuz lomi-ed fresh.


Monarch Poke Miso Pork Belly Pc Lee Tonouchi

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Miso-braised pork belly, $16

Da cook in da back wen smile up when I ordered dis one. It’s because the Miso Braised Pork Belly is his favorite, da cashier explained. Da pork wuz soft and succulent, but da sauce wuz too sweet for me. Wit dis one I decided for sample da garlic rice, which wuz white rice gently infused with garlic in some magical process. I liked it, but I tink regular rice could bettah absorb da sweetness of the pork.


Garlic Shrimp plate lunch with rice and macaroni salad

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Garlic shrimp, $21

If da Kaua‘i shrimps came with shell off, dis wuz going be for our keiki. If shell on, den we might’ve had to choose someting else, cuz our keiki doesn’t eat da shell, head or tail. Luckily we could get ’em either way. Da shrimps came with loads of sautéed garlic and wuz good!


Monarch Poke Katsu Sando Pc Lee Tonouchi

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Katsu sando, $15

Our oddah keiki chose dis. One pork cutlet on top Japanese milk bread with shredded cabbage, katsu sauce and Pele’s aioli. You should’ve seen our keiki’s face light up when she found out it came with fries. I never get fo taste, but she gave dis one big thumbs up. And da fries ova hea stay keiki approved.


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Mahi Mahi Sandwich with pickled mango and salad

Photo: Lee Tonouchi

Seared mahi mahi sandwich, market price

You could get dis with fries or salad. Da seared mahi came with pickled mango and calamansi aioli on top one kaiser bun. I going say right here my aunty’s one picky eater. She SAYS she eats anyting, but SHE LIE. Anyhow, I nevah get for sample dis sandwich, so I no can say how good it is. All I can report is I witnessed my aunty eat DA WHOLE TING. And das rare. I asked her, Oh you nevah like save half for later? She shook her head no. I asked, how come? She stuck her lips out and said, Because it was good.


Da hardest part about finding little bit fancier places for eat is when your family get young people who don’t wanna eat adventurous and old people who even more picky than da young people. We wuz lucky that at Monarch Poke we truly found someting for everybodies.


98-199 Kamehameha Hwy, (808) 762-3232, monarchpoke.com, @monarch_poke


Lee A. Tonouchi is a longtime Frolic contributor whose plays and books, written entirely in pidgin, have won national awards and recognition. His play “Gone Feeshing” is currently being performed at Kumu Kahua Theatre until Feb. 19, 2023.