Dining With Denise Neil

Poke is okay: The fresh-fish dish from Hawaii is trendy in Wichita

Tuna poke is a top seller at Noble House Hawaiian Plate Lunch.
Tuna poke is a top seller at Noble House Hawaiian Plate Lunch. Courtesy photo

Wichita is a long way from Hawaii.

But one of the islands’ most popular dishes – and one of the trendiest dishes of the year nationwide – has recently landed on menus all over town.

It’s called poke, and it’s pronounced “poe-kay.” (as in rhymes with okay.) Poke comes in many forms but is made with diced fish, usually ahi tuna or salmon, that is mixed with fresh veggies and sauce.

Versions of poke are on the menus at restaurants all over Wichita, including Newport Grill, Sakura Japanese Cuisine, Ninza Sushi, Yokohama Ramen Joint and BJ’s Brewhouse.

There’s even a new poke restaurant about to open. PokeMix, a project by Krispy’s owner John Nguyen and partner Mimi Lu, is set to open in the former Orange Leaf space in front of the west-side Warren Theatre in early May.

But for now, the top poke purveyor in town is likely chef Akamu Noble, the owner of Noble House Hawaiian Plate food truck, who just opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the former Smart’s Doughnut space at 3238 E. Douglas.

Noble, who grew up in Hawaii and once lived in Japan, said poke is one of the most commonly eaten dishes in Hawaii, and it’s the most popular dish on his menu. He estimates that he sells between 50 and 100 poke bowls a day.

“Last year, it was the trending food of the year,” he said. “It’s finally caught on after all this time.”

Noble puts a twist on his poke, serving it as a “poke bowl.” Instead of being served as a salad, his poke comes atop a bed of rice, which makes it more of a meal.

The Noble House menu includes several types of poke, including ahi tuna, albacore tuna, salmon and octopus. The chef includes 6 ounces of meat with 4 ounces of rice and ingredients such as sliced onions, capers, radish sprouts, garlic and sesame seeds in his bowls.

The secret is the homemade sauces, which are made with ingredients such as Japanese seven spice, citrus soy sauce and ponzu.

Poke is also one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Newport Grill, 1900 N. Rock Road, where it’s sold as an appetizer.

Newport’s sous chef, James McBride, said the restaurant’s version is made with cubed ahi tuna, julienne red onions, diced avocados, macadamia nuts and a poke sauce made with ginger, togarashi sauce, sesame seed oil and soy sauce. It’s served in a martini glass with wonton chips for dipping.

The restaurant has had its poke on the menu for about a year, and customers say they love that it’s light and fresh.

“Once we get into the warmer weather, it becomes even more popular,” he said. “It’s one of our top sellers.”

Denise Neil: 316-268-6327, @deniseneil