Pokéworks opens first Southern California location in Irvine

I don’t know if you have noticed but poké is spreading across the country like wildfire. The funny thing is that poké has been around for a long time. In the old fishing days in Hawaii, the choice cuts were sold at market and the leftovers became a snack for the fishermen. Poké is a Hawaiian verb meaning “to cut or slice”. The leftover fish was cut up and commonly mixed with shoyu and local ingredients like seaweed and onion. Marinating the fish with these ingredients makes an onolicious appetizer or meal with sticky rice. The poké that is springing up is what I call, “haole-style poké”. It has most of the traditional ingredients (and some not so traditional like mango, pineapple, and cilantro), but none of them marinate the fish. It is just quickly tossed in the sauce with the other ingredients. It is not bad, just haole-fied for the masses on the mainland. But after talking to many of the proprietors, it seems that the marinated poké doesn’t look fresh to the haoles. Being brought up on poké, the color does not bother me as long as the fish is fresh. You can definitely smell bad fish even if it is covered in shoyu. One of the first things I do when I go back home is stop by KTA or Foodland and buy a few of half-pound tubs of poké. My dad always has a pot of sticky rice waiting for us so we can “kau kau”!


Pokéworks opened their first Southern California location in Irvine, CA inside of the Culver Plaza Shopping Center which is anchored by 99 Ranch Market. It is a bustling center which is busy almost any time of day, especially lunch time. I would categorize Pokéworks as “haole-style poké”.


The interior is very trendy with reclaimed wood-paneled walls, long wooden tables, and metal chairs. The counter is set up assembly-line style. I think the glass barrier is way too high as it was very hard to hear the employee on the inside and they had a hard time hearing me on the outside because I’m short. A shorter glass barrier with a glass shelf to shield the ingredients would be better. Most of us Asians are short.


You can order from their Signature Works menu or do Poké Your Way.


Poké Your Way steps:

1.       Choose your base: Poké Bowl (white rice, organic brown rice, or quinoa (+$1)), Poké Burrito (white rice and seaweed wrap), or Poké Salad (chopped romaine lettuce).

2.       Choose your protein ($9.95 – mix up to 2, $12.50 – mix up to 3): Ahi tuna, salmon, albacore tuna, octopus, shrimp (sous vide), scallop (sous vide), chicken (sous vide), and/or organic tofu.

3.       Choose your mix-ins: Cucumber, edamame, ogo seaweed, hiijiki seaweed, blanched kale, cilantro, diced mango, shiso leaves, and/or grapefruit.

4.       Choose your flavor: Hawaiian classic, umami shoyu, ponzu fresh, sriracha aioli, wasabi aioli, spicy ginger, sweet chili, or gochujang.

5.       Choose your toppings: Avocado (+$1.50), wasabi tobiko (+$1), spicy furikake, seaweed salad, crab salad, masago, pickled ginger, wasabi, and/or green onions.

6.       Add crunch: Roasted macadamia nut (+$1), toasted rice puffs, sesame seeds, wonton crisps, lotus chips, onion crisps, and/or garlic crisps.


Here are some Poké Your Way combinations to try:


Poké Bowl with white rice topped with ahi and salmon mixed with ogo and hiijiki seaweed, umami shoyu, wasabi tobiko, seaweed salad (wakame), green onion, and sesame seeds. I tried to stay with more authentic ingredients and it was good. There wasn’t quite enough shoyu to flavor the fish and I had to ask for extra on the side. The fish is very fresh, but it really needs to be cut into smaller chunks. It would be easier to eat plus help get the sauce of your choice to flavor the fish. I love seaweed so I went all out. I would eat it with every meal if I could. It’s a good thing that they are a sustainable plant food source. Rating: 4/5


Poké Salad topped with salmon, scallops, cucumber, ogo, cilantro, sriracha aioli, seaweed salad, (imitation) crab salad, masago, green onion, onion crisps, wonton crisps, and garlic crisps. The hubby liked this salad. All of the flavors and textures worked well together – spicy, refreshing, creamy, salty, zingy, crispy, and crunchy. Rating: 4/5

If you are looking for sashimi grade fish but don’t want to sit in a sushi bar and just want a quick bite, give Pokéworks a try. They are fast, friendly, and ready to answer questions if it’s your first time eating poké.

Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 stars
Décor: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
15333 Culver Dr. # 410
Irvine, CA 92604
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking: Free shopping center parking

Pokeworks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato