Poki Poki Cevicheria – Albuquerque, New. Mexico

Poki Poki Cevicheria on Central Avenue in the UNM area

Having settled comfortably into middle age, my favorite participatory sports of basketball and tennis have been replaced by more sedentary, safe and slothful pursuits.  Instead of getting my shot rejected almost as often as the cheerleaders in Peñasco spurned my offers of a burger at Victor’s Drive-in, I now delight in catching every grammatical faux pas, malapropism and inaccuracy uttered by the media–not a difficult challenge since the legendary and near infallible anchor Dick Knipfing retired.  

Instead of double-faulting on my serve eighteen times in a row, it’s answering questions which stump Jeopardy contestants that now gets my adrenaline pumping.  Alas, as a fogey who believes music died in the 70s and could not care less about Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling but count among my closest friends, the Albuquerque Adonis, Ryan “Break the Chain”  Scott, pop culture questions are my downfall. Case in point, “Barney the Purple Dinosaur” was my answer to a recent question about a video game franchise from Japan.  The correct answer, of course, was Pokemon.  Pokemon?  I could have answered nearly all there is to know about Poke, the Hawaiian culinary craze that’s sweeping the mainland, but had absolutely no clue about this Pokemon creature.

Place your order and in a few minutes, your Poke adventure begins

Now let me tell you about Poke. Poke (sometimes spelled “poki” and always pronounced poh-kay) refers to a “chunked” marinated or seasoned raw fish dish that’s been served primarily as an appetizer in Hawaii for centuries. In fact, the Hawaiian term “poke” simply means to “chunk” or to “cut crosswise into pieces,” both aptly descriptive terms for the salad-like preparation of seafood that has been cut into small chunks and marinated. Largely influenced by Asian flavors and ingredients, poke can be–and is–made with almost any type of seafood and topped with a vast array of garnishes and sauces. As with sushi, the chef’s imagination often determines the composition and diversity of poke.

In Hawaii, poke is a ubiquitous comfort food, served in venues ranging from surf shacks to gourmet restaurants. The advent of poke’s popularity across the fruited plain can be attributed to our shrinking world and the popularity of Hawaii as a travel (and increasingly, a dining) destination. It’s only natural that enterprising chefs who fall in love with poke during forays to the island paradise would want to share this pescetarian phenomenon with their own customers. It may be an overstatement to say these chefs have reshaped the American mainland’s culinary culture, but it’s safe to say they may have introduced its most exciting new food trend in recent memory. Sushi hotbeds such as Los Angeles and San Francisco were among the first to embrace poke, but even landlocked destinations in the heartlands now boast of poke restaurants.

Spicy Bowl

In a recent discussion about food trends, my friend David, an accomplished chef and barista, lamented how often the Duke City is slow to embrace culinary trends that have captured seemingly every other major metropolitan market. He’s very happy to hear Albuquerque isn’t late to the poke party. On May 18th, Burque celebrated the official grand opening of Poki Poki Cevicheria, an Asian-Latin fusion restaurant specializing in Hawaiian poke bowls with Latin flair and influence. Poki Poki is a family owned enterprise which allows intrepid diners to assemble their own poke bowls in a fashion similar to Chipotle’s assembly line process. Poki Poki Cevicheria is located on Central Avenue in the Brickyard District just across the street from the University of New Mexico.

If you’re a true foodie, two items on the preceding paragraph probably caught your eye. The first is the inclusion of the term “Cevicheria” on the restaurant’s name. The second is the term “Asian-Latin” fusion. Poki Poki actually takes a creative departure from the standard poke restaurant template by incorporating “Latin” ingredients and flavors with ingredients and flavors rooted in Hawaii. In Albuquerque, when Latin flavors are discussed, it’s often hand-in-hand with the name Elvis Bencomo, the brilliant chef-owner of Passion Latin Fusion. Elvis collaborated on the development of the restaurant’s sauces and chips (more on them later).

Hawaiian Bowl

Though not a true “cevicheria” as you might find throughout Latin America, Poki Poki, it can be said, is a sushi-meets-ceviche-meets-donburi (Japanese rice bowl dish) restaurant, the first, best and only of its kind in Albuquerque. It was difficult to contain my excitement when introducing my friends Larry McGoldrick and Dazzling Deanell to Poki Poki. Larry, the professor with the perspicacious palate, told me he’d “been looking for a restaurant like this for a long time.” Deanell,a culinary bon-vivant who’s probably smarter than Larry and I combined, marveled at how the flavors just popped.

The build-your-own poke bowl concept has five distinct steps: (1) select your bowl (regular, large or unlimited and base (white rice, salad or chips); (2) Go fishing. Choose from albacore tuna, ahi tuna, spicy tuna, salmon or octopus. A regular bowl rewards you with three ounces of your choice, a large bowl with five ounces and an unlimited bowl with seven ounces. (3) Sauce it up. Choose from the house sauce, roasted jalapeno, passion fruit, red pepper, poki sauce, tosa-mi or fusion mayo. Heat ratings for the sauces range from mild to hot. (4) Toppings. With a regular bowl, you can select three toppings; with a large bowl, it’s five toppings and with an unlimited bowl, you can top the bowl until it’s full. (5) Finish it! Elevate its deliciousness with chipotle mayo, spicy mayo, teriyaki sauce, chimichurri or Sriracha.

Latin Bowl

15 May 2016: Unless or until you understand the flavors resultant from combining ingredients and sauces, you’re probably better off ordering one of Poki Poki’s “Special Bowls,” composed poke bowls ostensibly constructed by restaurant staffers after much delicious trial and effort.  Knowing my own gluttonous tendency to overstuff  salads with favorite ingredients, often to the detriment of flavor optimization, I opted for the Spicy Bowl during my inaugural visit.  With a base that’s half rice and half garlic chips;  spicy tuna and salmon; passion fruit; crab, avocado, cucumber, jalapeño, lime, green onion, pico de gallo and furikake (a Japanese seasoning) as toppings with chipotle mayo and Sriracha for sauces, this “better than any sushi roll” poke is an adventure in complementary flavors and textures, an addictively delicious bowl of stuff you probably never thought would be so good together.  The fresh, invigorating flavors will imprint themselves on your taste buds and for a while, all you’ll be able to think about is your next poke bowl.

17 May 2016: That next poke bowl transpired two days after my inaugural visit with the Hawaiian Bowl gracing my table.  This beauteous, bounteous bowl with a salad base; salmon, albacore and octopus; fusion mayo; a boatload of toppings (crab, avocado, seaweed salad, cucumber, pineapple, mango salsa, edamame, masago, ginger, sesame seeds and furikaki) and a teriyaki sauce is the antithesis of the Spicy Bowl.  Sweet notes are the prominent flavor profile though the sweetness of the teriyaki and the fructose tanginess of the mango salsa and pineapple are tempered by savory ingredients.  Because New Mexicans like their heat, ask the accommodating staff for some spicy mayo to give this bowl a hint of piquancy that marries well with other flavors. 

A Build-Your-Own Masterpiece

19 May 2016: The promised fusion qualities are best experienced in the Latin Bowl (white rice, octopus and albacore tuna, roasted jalapeño and red pepper sauce, avocado, jalapeño, plantain chips, lime, pico de gallo, green onion, cilantro and sesame seeds with a chimichurri dressing).  All too often in New Mexico, Latin fusion means an insistence in using New Mexican green chile.  Wonderful as it is, green chile isn’t missed on the Latin Bowl which has plenty of other delicious heat generating ingredients.   With lime slices, you’re free to impart citrusy flavors to the albacore and octopus a la ceviche mixto, the popular Mexican restaurant offering.  The plantain chips as with the restaurant’s yam chips and garlic chips provide a textural contrast and delightful flavor complement to other ingredients.

29 July 2016: Since introducing my friend Bill Resnik to Poki Poki, it’s become a regular lunch destination for him.  He long ago graduated from ordering the prefab bowls and has been masterfully concocting his own creations.  A mathematician who graduated from the New Mexico Institute of Technology, Bill has an engineer’s mind with a mad scientist’s whimsy.  To see him point out ingredient combinations is to watch mad science or abstract art in action.  It’s not just “give me some of this and some of that.”  In his mind’s eye, he can actually taste what the intricate flavor combinations will be.  That’s why when we celebrated his birthday at Poki Poki, my instructions to our server were “just give me exactly what he’s having.”   Essentially, it was a melange of vegetables, seafood and sauces in complementary proportion to each other.  Alas, I probably wouldn’t be able to duplicate his masterpiece precisely, but should be able to create deliciousness on my own.  So can you!

The Poki Poki Cevicheria is so good, so radically different, so welcome that you just may do the Hokey Poki dance to celebrate finishing your first poke bowl even as you anxiously await your next.

Poki Poki Cevicheria
2300B Central Avenue, S.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 503-1077
Web Site | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 29 July 2016
1st VISIT: 15 May 2016
# OF VISITS: 4
RATING: 23
COST: $$
BEST BET: Spicy Bowl, Hawaiian Bowl, Latin Bowl, Make-Your-Own Bowl

Poki Poki Cevicheria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

18 comments

  • Foodie Star

    Well call me a Poki-Man! This place is wonderful – a large palette of ingredients that you can arrange into one of an endless variety of dishes. My favorite begins with Rice, covered by 7oz. of Ahi tuna in spicy mayo, then crab salad, avocado, cucumber, pickled cabbage, fried plantains, crispy fried garlic & onion, nori, wasabi, pepper sauce, and more spicy mayo!
    It is very easy to order. If you have ever ordered, then selected your ingredients for a sandwich at Subway, you will feel right at home at Poki Poki.
    I’ve been back 4 times and it has the distinction of being one of the places in town whose food I actually get a craving for. My other cravings can be satisfied by California Pastrami’s Classic, Bahn Mi Coda’s Meatball sandwich, Ming Dynasty’s Chinese sausage fried rice, and a few other things/places.
    If you enjoy sushi, Poke’, or ceviche, try this place!

  • BOTVOLR

    (Sorry….One more time…beating a dead somethingorother! La Diabla made me send this….LOL)
    My G-daughter and family arrived in Hawaii yesterday. She was kind enough to send me a pic of when they went to a grocery store of what she saw on the end of an aisle. T’was a stacking of 18 cans tall, by 12cans wide. by 4 deep display of….are ya ready for this? SPAM
    As I can’t figure how to repro her pic here, l did some checking to find this example of delicacies on Hawaiian shelves: http://i.imgur.com/n4CpGuj.jpg
    Surprizingly, the price sticker on her pic showed it to be only about a dime more than at WallyMart here!

  • Bruce

    Dined at Poki Poki for lunch today. Very good. Nice unique addition to the local food scene. We will be back!

  • got-rice

    It looks like PPC is the first Poke joint to open in NM; I live in Southern California, and the poke craze began well over a year ago, and there are so many copycats that have sprung up…but yes, it is addictive, especially given the health considerations. I hope ABQ will appreciate Poke as much as the folks here in SoCal (and Hawaii of course).

    Love the blog. I used it to locate places to grub on for my business trip in late 2014 to the state (The Laguna Burger and the Pantry in SF were definitely highlights). Would love to visit again.

  • Joe

    I kept reading in the review the term “unlimited”. I think you may wish to change it to “ultimate” as there is a difference I believe.

    • Hello Joe

      You’re absolutely correct in that the terms “unlimited” and “ultimate,” while both excellent adjectives, are different. I use the term “unlimited” not as a descriptor, but because that’s what Poki Poki calls its largest sized Poke bowl.

      Gil

  • BOTVOLR

    Ok! Ok! I give up! A bit of humorous offering as an apology for bringing it up!
    http://tinyurl.com/zpchyqw
    http://tinyurl.com/jrtvaa5
    http://tinyurl.com/hq98jum

  • john baldwin

    Tried it for lunch today. Zee and I were very pleased with our two bowls, even without Spam, and will return. We both tried the set bowls, one Hawaiian and one spicy. Next time I’ll try to customize my order.

  • Schuyler

    Larry, have you ever tried Spam on your LotaBurgers?

    Gil, I’ve balled with you many times. There’s no way anyone will even attempt to block your shot knowing you’re going to miss anyways. Your tennis server is a WMD (weapon of misguided direction).

  • FGFABQ

    Word amongst local foodies is that BOTVOLR is opening an eatery serving only dirty water street GCC dogs “con onions”, Spam and PBR at a price point of $1.00 per item, unless you have a Press Pass from the Journal which is a 50% off discount.
    There will be “chicas” in grass skirts, mostly Linda Beaver wannabes, serving up the tasty Spam Poke dishes.
    Both iconic food items will be cooked on a 50 year old grill that gets cleaned maybe once every two to three years.
    The name being bandied about is Bobo’s El Cheapo Inn, “where the food is cheap but there’s a lot of it.” Add to that a retro feel and all that comes to mind is Charlie Sheen shouting WINNING!
    I can only imagine the lines.
    And to top it all off, FREE lunch if you drive up in a 1967 Firebird.
    That should cost Bobo one or two meals a year.

  • BOTVOLR

    Well, I read through your presentation again and was shocked that neither you nor perspicacious Larry nor Dazzling Deanell noted the absence of what is The Iconic ingredient in Hawaiian dishes…SPAM!!! I’m sure this oversight will be updated in the months ahead, given Canvas Artistry was ahead of the game with its Tempura Fried SPAM Musubi http://www.nmgastronome.com/?p=37677
    FYI: 7 million cans are consumed on the islands by its population of only 1.4 million! Besides some posh island eateries, SPAM is featured at McDonald’s and Burger King!

    • Because Spam is practically a major food group onto itself in Hawaii, it’s easy to stereotype Hawaiian cuisine as being inextricably bound to Spam ( washed down, of course, with Mai Tais). For Poki Poki to offer Spam Bowls (delicious as they’re likely to be) would be perpetuating a stereotype the Aloha State probably wishes to eviscerate (much in the way New Mexicans wouldn’t wanted to be associated with a culinary culture of pinto beans).

      For those of us who do love Spam, we’re grateful to Chef Saul Paniagua at Canvas Artistry for the delightful Spam Musubi.

    • This Perspicacious Professor does not now eat SPAM. One serving contains 767 mg. of sodium. That’s much more than half my daily allotment. Moreover, I think it tastes terrible.
      http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sausages-and-luncheon-meats/1472/2
      BTW, I have neither been to nor will I ever go to Hawaii.

      • BOTVOLR

        Well Perspicacious Larry, I am happy to inform Y’all, given you probably do not even look at the grocery shelf upon which a can of SPAM sits, they now have single serve packets of SPAM so you do not feel like you have to eat the whole can of SPAM once opened. (That raises an interesting question about SPAM, given it was valued during WW II for its longevity: i.e. what is the “use by” life of SPAM once it is outside the can?) Anyway, you “might” be happy to know that the single serve envelope of SPAM also comes in a “Lite” version whereby the Sodium is listed at only 610 mgs!!!! and is 50% less in Fat content.
        In terms of tasting terrible: a bit of frying really brings out the fuller flavor!
        – BTW….if Y’all really want to take a ride on the wild side, get the bowl (instead of the cup) of Hot & Sour soup at PF Chang’s that goes for 9,560 mgs of Sodium and follow that up with their Northern Style Spare Ribs at 6,260 mgs!!! Elsewise, you can just keep it healthy with a fish choice, let’s say their Oolong Chilean Sea Bass at 3,360! (http://tinyurl.com/gr36pck) LOL
        – Whoa! Altho http://tinyurl.com/zced3sb does not specify an OD amount, too much sodium can have nasty effects (besides heart and BP concerns). I can never understand why Folks Salt before they taste and especially when they are having New Mexican dishes!
        Salud…to your continued good health!

    • Jeff

      Just as a response to the demand of Spam at this location: No.
      While yes, Hawaii is known for their love of Spam, it is not that ubiquitous in Poke. I can verify this personally, as I have been to Hawaii several times in the past 6 years, and have eaten Poke nearly every day from many different restaurants, general stores at the seafood section (which is usually the best place to get authentic poke on the Islands), and I have even been to one such market where they claim to have the biggest variety of Poke (over 50 variations). Not one. . . NOT ONE of these places had Spam anywhere near the poke.
      So please cease and desist this silliness; this restaurant knows what it is doing.

  • Unique and delightful. I will be back often.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *