If the idea of fresh fish, lightly marinated and topped with crunchy vegetables and seasonal fruit appeals to you, then you need to give poké bowls a try. Essentially a deconstructed seafood salad usually assembled with yellowfin tuna, poké originated in Hawaii as a way for fishermen to enjoy the offcuts of their catch. This bright, flavourful dish is now a worldwide phenomenon, with many restaurants putting their own spin on the Hawaiian classic.
One such spot is The Poké Co. in Cape Town, recently founded by Andrew Flanagan after discovering poké during a trip to Indonesia. We chatted to him about his exciting venture, and how it’s adding a new dimension to the Mother City’s seafood scene.
Can you tell us the back story to The Poké Co.?
I have always been inspired by the idea of opening a dynamic and refreshing concept store centred around seafood in Cape Town. Coming from a family with deep roots in the South African fishing industry, fish and seafood were common themes throughout my childhood. I still clearly remember when my father went to Japan in the early ’90s for the first time and came back with stories of eating raw fish.
The idea of opening a specialised poké bar in Cape Town was sparked while travelling and surfing in Indonesia with my girlfriend. The two of us share an obsession for good food, and it was here that we fell in love with the concept of poké for the first time. The uniqueness and deliciousness of the dish quickly convinced me that poké is the seafood staple that Cape Town has been missing!
When did the business launch?
We recently featured our first pop-up store at the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate at the start of January. We were met with an overwhelmingly positive response and things have really kicked off for us since then.
What’s inspired your take on poké?
Before moving back home to Cape Town, I had a successful career working on board luxury superyachts for seven years. During this time, I often found myself immersed in the different cultures and foods that we got to experience as we travelled the world. I worked alongside some exceptionally talented chefs and drew plenty of inspiration and knowledge from them, particularly new and different techniques for preparing seafood.
Poké is all the flavours we love in sushi, rediscovered in a unique, spontaneous and convenient way. This made it easy to draw inspiration from a variety of different cuisines and come up with our own take on the dish.
We know the poké bowl originated in Hawaii. Are you adapting your dishes to suit South African tastes?
We have taken the key elements that make poké so delicious and twisted them by adding our own Capetonian flavour.
Our poké bowls work on a BYO (build your own) basis, where you can choose from a base (either two types of rice or zoodles), a selection of high-grade sashimi and an assortment of house-prepared toppings and dressings.
Sourcing sustainable ingredients is very important for the food industry; how are you going about this with your product?
Absolutely, our fish is sustainably caught using the traditional ‘rod ’n reel’ method and it’s of the highest quality. All our fresh produce is locally sourced and comes from a variety of different farms.
Tips for creating your own poké bowl?
- Get your hands on the freshest tuna fillets possible.
- Marinate the fish in a combination of shoyu and sesame oil to your liking.
- Balance the rich flavour of the tuna with a seasonal fruit of your choice.
- Choose a few other fresh greens to go along with it – it’s also best topped off with a bit of crunch, such as toasted almond flakes.
Future plans for The Poké Co.?
We are busy looking for the ideal permanent space in Cape Town that will allow our customers to come and enjoy our poké, made fresh to order.
Where can we find you at the moment?
The Poké Co. is initially going to be available via an ‘order in’ service online to your home or workplace. We will also be present at select events that complement our offering. Keep an eye on our Instagram and pokecoct.com for where to find us next.