Toppings galore

Ohana Poke Bar

Good for: fast-casual customized poke
Notable dishes: Big Island poke box, mini cup

Ohana Poke Bar

1809 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

(916) 376-7603

Two years ago, most people had never heard of poke, and they rhymed it with “toke” instead of the proper “poh-kay.” Then Fish Face Poke Bar opened on R Street, predating even trend-savvy San Francisco’s poke restaurants.

Now, poke is a legitimate food phenomenon, borrowed from its native Hawaiian roots and turned into a fancified fare-thee-well. Aside from Fish Face, it’s rare to find the traditional pared-down versions of pristine raw fish with nothing but seaweed, nuts and salt.

Americans like customizing, so Ohana Poke Bar is the natural result of the poke trend. Opened three months ago as the second outpost of a San Francisco business, it sits on the corner of the Safeway shopping center in Midtown.

Ohana offers a seemingly narrow set of choices: three predetermined poke combos or customize-your-own mini cup ($8) or regular box ($12). But really, the options overwhelm you immediately.

These are no simple appetizers of cubed fish, as they’re commonly served in Hawaii. Instead, the dishes are like chef salads: chock full of rich ingredients that may or may not complement each other.

Of the set mixes, the Big Island ($15) lists ahi tuna, hamachi, albacore, mango and beet with Ohana’s “original” garlic-sesame sauce. Seems straightforward, but no.

First you choose a base of white or brown rice, mixed greens or kale and orange salad. Next, the server adds a scoop of imitation-crab salad and garlic edamame, then proceeds to pile together the fish, sliced cucumbers, onions, avocado cubes, seaweed, masago (fish eggs) and various other add-ons.

At the end, they squirt on the sauce and you choose even more toppings, such as fried garlic or onion, almonds and furikake. It’s like watching a kid top their frozen yogurt—both fascinating and slightly terrifying.

The result is not quite as overwhelming as I feared, with an abundance of textures and flavors interacting. The seafood, allegedly the star of poke bowls, gets lost in the maelstrom of add-ons, though. While I’d never had poke with fruit before, the acidic mango and pineapple cubes (another option) did add a welcome respite from the richer, saltier flavors.

Another preset box, the Kauai ($13), goes a step further with a “tropical” sauce of avocado and pineapple pureed with sea salt. It veered a bit too sweet for me, when combined with the albacore, prawns, hamachi and mango, et al.

If you attempt the make-your-own route, know there are six steps involved, each with multiple choices. First the base, then the sides (definitely try the garlic edamame, which are outstanding), then protein (including tofu, if you don’t eat seafood), add-ons, toppings and sauce (of which there are four).

The mini cup ($8) actually isn’t very small, and works well as a single serving. I shared a regular box ($12) twice and found it plenty for two if you aren’t ravenous.

Prices seem similar to those at Coconut’s Fish Cafe and Fish Face, although the quantities skew larger at Ohana.

An employee named Sunh Fish Co. as the restaurant’s primary source of seafood, which indicates high quality. With all the toppings, though, it’s hard to discern just how good it may be.

Hawaiian shave ice should be available there soon. That will be a very welcome summer treat, and relatively rare in the area.

With Ohana, the block becomes even more of a food mecca, alongside Ryujin Ramen House and Raijin Ramen House, plus Ju Hachi across S Street. Now that there are several poke restaurants in town, try them all and decide whether you’re a traditionalist or a modernist. Ohana fulfills the modern trend of more flavors and large quantities.