When it comes to food, poke doesn’t mean a jab or putting your right foot in or left foot out. As The International Poke Co. demonstrates, poke (pronounced pokeh) is cubed raw salmon or ahi tuna.
There’s no need for eye rolling here; this is healthy, fresh Atlantic salmon, ahi tuna, albacore tuna and (cooked) shrimp served in bowls with an array of bright, lively ingredients. According to the employee who took our order at the counter, every effort is made to keep the fish at its best, even though deliveries are made Mondays and Fridays. Admittedly, I was a bit leery placing my order on a Thursday, but I need not have worried. IPC is a place I will happily return to any day of the week.
Poke is traditional Hawaiian cuisine, though based on the menu, it’s evident other places have co-opted the idea. Nine poke bowl choices are available, along with a create-your-own option. Each highlights a specific flavor profile such as Korean, Peruvian, Southwestern and Japanese. The North Shore ahi tuna and Korean barbecue salmon are among the employee’s favorites; he added that the Coco Loco salmon is also popular.
Bowls come in two sizes: classic ($12) and grand ($14). Or one could choose a wrap ($13). The classic was plenty, with the proteins being weighed before more items are mixed in.
In addition to the selected fish is a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts. Depending on what’s ordered, some combination is created and served over brown rice, white rice, glass noodles, mixed greens or Forbidden black rice. These are referred to as the foundation.
The Coco “oco features vivid pink salmon with mango, red onions, tomato, jalapeño and cilantro in a creamy coconut milk sauce mixed over brown rice. The result is bursts of Caribbean flavors.
Identified as “the Hawaiian classic” on the menu, the North Shore blends scallions, edamame, cucumber and jalapeños with a soy sauce/sesame oil dressing. It’s typically served on white rice, but a diner can switch the foundation on this or any bowl. We opted for the Forbidden black rice, which is nuttier and more savory. The glass noodles are also a nice alternative.
Staff was more than willing to offer samples before we placed our orders so we could try the black rice. Bowls are assembled at the counter where orders are placed, so diners can make changes, if desired. For example, I wanted only a small amount of jalapeños and more cilantro. Each bowl features a rainbow of colorful ingredients, such as bright cubes of orange mango, red tomatoes, pale green diced scallions, purple onion slices and more.
Most of the bowls are gluten-free. Several are designated hot and spicy, and some vegan options are available by switching out jackfruit or tofu for the fish. For anyone with an aversion to fish, raw or cooked, five salads ($3 each) provide alternatives.
Fountain drinks, teas, sparkling water, soft drinks and kombucha on tap are available. Tropical turmeric and blueberry basil are the 12-ounce pours of the latter. We were generously given a sample of each. Surprising to me, the turmeric was the tastier. Besides, I appreciate its health benefits.
IPC does a brisk takeout business. Dining in is pleasant, though the music can be loud. Something to keep in mind is this is a noncash establishment; credit card only.Restaurant: International Poke Co.
Address: 122 Tracker Drive, Unit 120
Contact: 394-8444; internationalpoke.com
Restaurant character: Take-out or dine-in upscale fast food
Rating total: 4 of 5 forks
Food: 4.5 of 5 forks
Ambiance: 3.5 of 5 forks
Service: 4.5 of 5 forks
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Vegan options: Yes
Outdoor dining: No
Gluten-free Options: Yes
What’s online as of April 10:
• No votes on Foursquare
• 3.5 of 5 stars based on 4 reviews on TripAdvisor
• No votes on Zomato
• 4 of 5 stars based on 36 reviews on Yelp
• Active on Facebook
No rating by El Paso County Public Health as of April 10.