If 2015 was the year of the bao, is 2016 set to be all about the poke (pronounced poe-kay, in case you’re wondering)? The Hawaiian dish featuring marinated raw fish is definitely on trend at the moment, with even Pret having recently introduced a poke salad on their menu!
Given London’s love of niche eateries specialising in anything and everything from cereal to cheese toasties, it was only a matter of time before we’d see a dedicated poke eatery too.
And the wait wasn’t too long, with Black Roe Poke Bar and Grill launched in late March this year by Kurt Zdesar (of Chotto Matte in Soho)…
Taking over the former site of Bouillabaisse in Mayfair’s Maddox Street, the dimly-lit restaurant has a moody yet playful tone with its loud music and tongue-in-cheek neon lights.
It’s particularly hard to miss the black and white portraits lining the walls – taken by celebrity photographer Seamus Ryan, they portray the fishermen and women who catch the fish that is so essential to the restaurant’s signature dish!
Joining me for dinner at this trendy joint was girl-about-town, Colleen Monaghan, aka Blond Across The Pond.
We’d both been looking forward to the evening with much anticipation and so wasted no time in ordering a poke bowl each as soon we’d settled in.
Deliberating between the extensive offerings, Colleen went with the classic ahi tuna, marinated in roasted sesame soy and served on seasoned short-grained rice with a hearty helping of black roe on top.
It’s a perfect balance between sweet and salty, she declared while assiduously scooping out every last bite!
While the vegetarian alternative for me involved a colourful assortment of finely diced vegetables which came together in a punchy burst of flavours courtesy of the tangy and not just a little spicy Sriracha citrus salsa dressing.
I just wish the veggie-to-rice ratio had been more even, as the dish was relatively too heavy on the rice…
Aside from poke, the menu focuses on fresh seafood, oysters and dishes from a traditional Hawaiian kiawe wood grill.
Unsurprisingly, vegetarian-friendly dishes are far and few between – limited to a couple of sides, an indecently priced asparagus tempura and a “cajun-style” blackened tofu.
I ordered the latter which unfortunately for me, fell a bit flat with the crisp glaze unable to shield the fact that it gave way to a block of essentially plain tofu…
And before you say anything, let me just clarify that there is indeed such a thing as tasty tofu – the pan-seared tofu steak with anticucho sauce at Nobu (interestingly another of Zdesar’s restaurants) is just one strong case-in-point.
Still, top marks to our accommodating server who upon my request had the kitchen substitute pineapple salsa (which originally came with this dish) to a roasted sesame marinade instead. The sesame added a nutty note which definitely made this dish more palatable.
Colleen on the other hand, had no complaints with her octopus aioli.
She thought the tender pieces to have been well-cooked and with just the right touch of spice (from the chilli salsa). The bed of slightly-sweet mashed potato added another substantial dimension to an already wholesome dish, making it an altogether filling proposition…
… So much so, that she *almost* didn’t have room for dessert.
As intriguing as it sounded, we didn’t quite have the stomach for the mammoth Shake and Bake.
But the chocolate melting cake hit the spot nicely, with its richly indulgent and gooey ganache centre and the generous lacing of salted caramel on top.
We couldn’t resist calling for some more vanilla ice cream on the side – the creamy scoops arrived as a dessert in themselves, coated with hazelnut and a drizzle of chocolate with two savoury biscuits dunked in!
It was a sweet finish to an altogether fun evening which passed by, spurred on by the buzzy vibes and the stylish crowd!
4 Mill Street, Mayfair, London W1S 2AX