Nowadays, it appears new restaurants are constantly popping up on every street corner in DC. Recent themes include Aussie restaurants serving Kangaroo sliders, a pinball-inspired bar, and a vegan “diner.” Often, it seems as if the hottest new trend is just a reinvented old trend, especially with styles from past decades coming back. But these restaurants are really making an effort to stand out. It’s really no surprise when a new Hawaiian craze swept over DC: Poké bowls.
Essentially, it’s raw fish marinated with sesame oil and soy, then mixed with a plethora of raw and sautéed vegetables, served on top of rice. I was a bit skeptical at first to try it. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds delicious, but I’m not a raw-fish-eating kind of girl. Still, I kept an open mind as a few friends and I went to Poké Papa, on H Street, to try this new craze.
Poké Papa doesn’t look like much on the outside. It’s situated between Five Guys and the Grand Hyatt Washington, with a small, white sign that reads “Poké Papa.” However, the inside of the restaurant is a pleasant surprise. It is clean and modern, with a community table in the center and individual seating around. A mural covers the left side of the restaurant, depicting many treasured DC landmarks, such as the Washington Monument and the Capitol. In the back of the restaurant, the menu and ingredients are laid out behind clear glass. It’s as if you were ordering food at Chipotle or Subway: choose your ingredients and workers make the bowl in front of you.
My meal consisted of spicy tuna, ahi poké, and an abundance of vegetables, on top of white rice. After ordering a small bottle of water with my meal, my total came to $15.50. I was a bit surprised, I thought the total was expensive for the amount of food I was getting. Though I took into account the water bottle also pushes up the price.
The first bite I took was honestly exquisite! The cold, raw fish contrasted nicely with the hot rice and roasted veggies. But, as I started to take a few more bites, I was grateful that I bought that bottle of water. My mouth was overwhelmed by spice! Eating spicy food is not something new to me. It’s basically in my blood. But Poké Papa created an entirely new level of heat I had never experienced–I must have finished half the water before I ate a quarter of my food! Due to the abundance of heat, I decided I could not finish what I bought.
I would rate my experience at Poké Papa a 6.5/10. The price of the food was too expensive for the amount you are receiving, and the spice levels are through the roof. But the waitstaff is very hospitable, and the attractive dining room can make for a pleasant meal, if you order correctly. They’ve only been open for about four months and are still working out their kinks. I do plan to return to Poké Papa, when my mouth finally cools off, and when I do I’ll be sure to try their “black rice.” I can’t tell you exactly what’s in it, but I guess you’ll have to go and try it for yourself.
PHOTO COURTESY OF POKE PAPA & MAIN HUB