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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016

www.ediblemontereybay.com 11 But since speedy service is a key part of e Poke Lab’s reason for being, Nguyen and Anderson make sure the queue moves fast—during lunch, I was 12 deep in a line that snaked outside, yet I was eating within 15 minutes. “Even with a long line,” says Nguyen, “people get through quickly.” What’s more, soon Nguyen and Anderson will unveil grab-and-go options so that customers can skip the line altogether. ey’re just working out how to package them in an earth-friendly way. Traditionally, poke—pronounced “POH-kay,” meaning “to slice into pieces” is a fish salad. Native Hawaiians sliced raw fish, mixing in salt, seaweed and chopped kukui nuts. Hawaiian fish markets, where Monterey native Nguyen discovered poke on trips to visit family, all have their own recipes; endless variations in flavors and textures exist. e Poke Lab’s three signature bowls are the Poke Lab, with spicy tuna, ahi tuna, salmon and avocado; the Citrus Salmon, with edamame and avocado; and the Vegetarian, with tofu, edamame, shiitakes and avocado. e Market Bowl changes with the seasons, and the I’ll Leave it to You is a chef ’s choice, which Anderson can use to test new items. Diners can also order the Build Your Own bowl. Like an artist’s palette, the array of choices provided by the restaurant includes carmine ahi, vibrant orange masago (capelin roe), purple-tinged tako (octopus) and creamy green avocado. It may seem surprising for Anderson, whose previous gigs at Affina Food + Wine and La Bicyclette in Carmel were more fine dining in emphasis, to decide to head a casual kitchen. But his first local job was at Roy’s, where he prepared sashimi. Fine-dining touches to the poke bowls include from-scratch sauces and dressings. And, to minimize waste, Anderson house-cures salmon belly bacon with the leftovers from the salmon they prep. rough established relationships, Anderson is connecting local purveyors to e Poke Lab. ough daikon isn’t traditional, Anderson uses daikon from Hollister’s Coke Farm as an onion alternative. Moss Landing’s Monterey Bay Seaweeds grows seaweed specifically for him. With desired characteristics in mind, they settled on ogo, a sea moss eaten in coastal Japan and Hawaii. Real Good Fish’s smoked black cod will be e Poke Lab’s first cooked fish option. ough e Poke Lab is still new, it’s already developed a fierce following. Customers from Carmel make the trip over the hill several times a week. “It’s not just about the food,” says Nguyen. “I want people to come, see a smiling face and have a great experience.” One customer echoed that sentiment. “We’ve probably been here eight times since they opened,” says Brian Garneau. “It’s consistent and the quality is always fresh.” Camilla M. Mann is a food writer, photographer, adventurer and passionate cook. She blogs at culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.com and lives in Seaside. e Poke Lab 475 Alvarado St., Monterey • 831.200.3474 • www.thepokelab.com


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016
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