Poke, according to some of the pundits out there, is “the trending food” in Houston right now. Sigh. While something trending can be a good thing if it gets folks to break out of their old habits and try something new, just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good. However, if anyone is making good food, it will speak for itself with proof of concept being in the eating and so on. Thankfully in my Westchase ‘hood, there is a Poke place that’s been open a little over a month called North Shore Poke Co. that has been building an audience very well due to a great product. Full disclosure: it is part of a 4 location chain based out of Huntington Beach, California and is producing a dish that originated in Hawaii. But first a little background:
North Shore Poke Company is a family-run business entirely dedicated to creating mind-blowing good Hawaiian poke that opened in March 2012 in Huntington Beach, CA. Just one block shy of Main Street. It was while serving in the Coast Guard Chef Shawn Gole caught the Poke bug and wondered why even Hawaiian restaurants on the mainland were overlooking this tasty fish offering. Shawn teamed up with his father and pastry chef sister, Melissa Gole-Vasquez to bring a Poke fix to Orange County. Since then, four other locations have made landfall, with the first in Houston opening in February of 2017!
But for the uninitiated, let’s talk about what Poke is first. Per Hawaii Magazine: The word poke (pronounced poh-keh) is Hawaiian, meaning “to slice or cut crosswise into pieces.” The basic poke mixture of cubed raw ahi (tuna), salty seaweed, and crunchy sweet onions. The poke first eaten by native Hawaiians was a simple mixture of raw fish, Hawaiian salt, seaweed and chopped kukui nuts (called inamona in Hawaiian). Post-colonial contact, that basic recipe got a bit more interesting with the introduction of onions and, sometimes, tomatoes to the mix. Go to most fish markets in Hawaii today and you’ll find a wide selection of poke—from tako (octopus) with ginger and garlic to tofu in shoyu with watercress and tomato. We’ve seen poke recipes with raw crab, cooked shrimp, clams, smoked salmon, pipi kaula (dried and smoked beef), even seared ribeye steak. There are now hundreds of poke recipes in Hawaii for every kind of taste. So, think of typical sushi ingredients, served more as a salad, in a bowl, on a base of steamed rice or greens such as cucumber. The Menu at North Shore features what would be considered standard sushi ingredients for mixing in your Poke bowl.
We visited North Short Poke Co. over a couple of different days to try a few different items on their menu. We found the fish to be fresh, we found the food to be full of flavour and the staff to be friendly. In the photos on the left, you see two of their Latin Inspired Poke Dishes: the Waimea style Poke Nachos (Waimea Style Salmon Poke Over Tortilla Chips. Topped with House Hot Sauce & Furikake). This is a cool yet spicy crunchy sushi nacho treat! As my daughter Helena is a Fish Taco fan, she went for the Fish Tacos (Waimea style salmon poke, Sunset, or Pipeline Poke. Topped w/ Cabbage on Corn Tortilla). This Echos the trip to San Diego long ago where I first tried fish tacos, but with a different twist–a sushi style salmon hit with some spice. Grades: A and A+ respectively.
On one of the other visits, we hit up some different styles of poke bowls in the proper sense. The photos show clockwise from the top: A Pipeline Bowl with Avocado added (Mix of Ahi Tuna and Salmon, Sushi Nori seasoning, Pipeline sauce, Avocado, Mangoes over steamed Jasmine rice); Jason’s built it yourself bowl with Salmon, Soy Sauce, Sushi Nori seasoning, with steamed Jasmine rice; and a Waimeia Bowl (Salmon, Waimeia spicy mayo sauce, Nori Seasoning, Macadamia nuts, onions). The main commonality we found was good, cool fresh sushi grade fish, great seasoning and fresh steamed rice. The Waimea sauce is creamy yet spicy, full of umami. The Spicy soy in the Pipeline is like a robust brewed vineagar with a little heat. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered that is for sure! Grades: A+, A and A+ respectively.
I’ll be checking out a number of other new and established Houston area Poke joints over the next several weeks. North Shore being in my local neighborhood and having a great product has already set a good precedent. As my pal Jack Long has said “It is good to live in Houston if you love to eat a diverse batch of food!”
North Shore Poke Co. is located in Westchase at:
11195 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77042
Open 7 Days a week
Ai, Pōmaikaʻi, o oukou a pau!!!
Ramen has always been a staple of college students as an inexpensive, flavourful and filling meal. The higher end version, still reasonably priced, has been available at many an Asian restaurant over the years. The highest end version of this wonderful noodle dish is usually fully loaded with meat, veggies, soft boiled eggs, and a plethora of seasonings in marrow broths, curries and all kinds of sauces. Since the opening of Tiger Den on Bellaire a few years ago, Houston has had a number of the higher end Ramen restaurants open up and enjoy some success due to the city’s appetite for all kinds of different foods, Ramen included. Agu-a Ramen Bistro which has become a staple in Hawaii since 2013 made its first jump to the mainland, bypassing California and the West Coast and landing with both feet in the Houston area. Here’s a bit more about them from their website.
“A harmony of aroma and complex flavors is affirmation of my love for the art of ramen.
Steeped deep within the noodles, is a reverence for life and the Japanese culture.
However, these bowls of passion can only reach perfection,
if I succeed in passing on their secrets to future generations.”— Chef Hisashi Uehara
We don’t just love ramen, we live ramen! Not long ago, a group of savvy business partners sat together enjoying a beer and doodling ideas on their cocktail napkins. In 2013, their collective dream of a high-end ramen house became reality when AGU a Ramen Bistro opened with fanfare at its first location at the Saint Louis Alumni Association in Honoloulu. A recipe for instant success, more AGU locations sprang up on Oahu over the next couple of years.
Hisashi Uehara, Executive Chef and Owner, named his premier ramen bistros, “AGU” which means “fellowship” or “best friends” in Miyako, his native Okinawa dialect. Every day, more than 1,560 pounds of pork bones are slowly boiled at an extremely high heat for over 24 hours in order to create AGU’s signature, creamy yet hearty, tonkotsu broth. The resulting enticing rich flavor speaks of the love that goes into every bowl. Tonkotsu Ramen is considered by many to be the “king of ramen”.
All of the soups and dishes served at AGU are made with only the freshest, exceptional ingredients. The rich, clear chicken broth is made using organic, cage-free Jidori chicken that has been raised on a vegetarian diet. Our noodles are made fresh daily from a special house recipe. However good ingredients are not enough to create AGU’s specialty soups and dishes. Our chefs are dedicated to preparing each item with perfection, patience and a little extra Aloha! Our ramen cannot be rushed!
|Karaage Fried Chicken|
Delicious Tonkatsu Ramen in thick broth with all the trimmings or a nice Jidori Ramen are a welcome bowl of comfort to me and my kiddos. On a recent day off from school the three of us headed to the location at 9310 Westheimer Rd near Chuy’s. This is one of 3 locations already open in the greater Houston area with plans for 3 more opening this quarter of 2017. Agu’s Menu includes all levels of Ramen and ingredients from the very basic Shoyu Ramen to the sublime Innovative Hot Mess and plenty of variations in between. They also have a good variety of small plates/sides, including Spicy Kim Chi, Gyoza Dumplings, Kicked up Fries and Karaage (a special moist and crunchy fried chicken, picture on the right.) We came hungry and tried a few things!
We went with two variations on the Tonkatsu Ramen–one with Miso, the other a Spicy Kotteri Ramen, as well as Karaage Fried Chicken. The Spicy Kotteri Ramen is made with bonito-infused shoyu tare with a choice of spice level (hot but not blistering for me) and
topped with fresh house made pork char siu, aji tamago*, crunchy menma, fried garlic chips, fresh negi & sesame seed. I elected to add a Jidori soft boiled egg for good measure. This Ramen was prepared and served piping hot and had a great, savoury scent from the pork, the broth, the onions, peppers, spices, sesame and other wonderful ingredients. A nice garnish of fresh green onions and half a soft boiled egg crowned this lovely bowl of noodles and it proved to be very photogenic on this sunny day. When it came to the eating, there was no disappointment. The broth was rich, had a nice oily marrow essence to it and it teemed with chewy, satisfying ramen noodles. A Bit of Heat hit at the end, clearing out the ol’ sinuses. Everything delivered as advertised, no disappointments!
|Miso Tonkatsu Ramen|
The Miso Tonkatsu ramen has a traditional rich & hearty broth full of robust flavors, with a unique blend of miso and an additional topping of sweet corn. It also includes the fresh house made pork char siu, aji tamago*, crunchy menma, fresh negi & sesame seeds. The kids wanted a Jidori egg in the mix as well–always a good call. This ramen was less spicy, more smooth and salty–more to the kids tastes. The sesame seeds add a bit of a nutty essence to the mix and add a layer of texture to the umami and the other sensations. The two of them ate the full contents of their bowls with glee. And the Karaage fried chicken is crunchy outside, moist inside, has a great flavour much like the salt and pepper wings from House of Bowls. Had I not already eaten a substantial bowl of Ramen, I might have craved waffles with that Karaage chicken.
Report Card for Agu Ramen on Westheimer:
Spicy Kotteri Ramen: A+
Miso Ramen: A
Karaage Fried Chicken: A
Dining area: A+
High End Ramen Bistro/Bar: A
Overall Grade: A
Agu Ramen has 3 open Houston locations now, with 3 more to open 1st Quarter 2017. We went to the location at:
7 Days a Week
11 AM til 10 PM
Eat Happy, Y’all!!!
State Fare 947 Gessner b190, Houston, TX 77024 http://statefarehouston.com I had a two hour lunch/brunch media tasting at State Fare and barely made a dent in their 65+ item menu! Their brunch will be available every Saturday and Sunday starting this weekend from 10 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. New brunch items include Avocado Street Corn […]
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Honey Art Cafe 3516 S Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77098 http://www.honeyartcafe.com/ I was scrolling through instagram and a friend in Houston posted a beautiful photo of the newly opened Honey Art Cafe. It was so pretty I made it my first priority when I came into Houston last weekend. I tried to beat the sunset […]
The post Honey Art Cafe Inspires Houston With Colors And Art appeared first on Girl Eats World.Continue Reading →
507 Pressler Ste 700 Austin, TX 78703 (512) 840-1330 http://libertykitchenatx.com Last week I had the pleasure of dining with my friend South Austin Foodie at Liberty Kitchen at a media tasting. I’m a big fan of light. Natural light, starlight, twinkle light. I want to go back to Liberty Kitchen at night to see their […]Continue Reading →
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