Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that is quickly growing in popularity in the Bay Area. While traditional Hawaiian poke is vastly different from the poke bowls from the mainland, there is still strong influence from tradition in the sauces, seasonings, and proteins. In this article, we’ve chosen the best poke spots in San Jose, based on their quality of ingredients, innovative sauces or toppings, and uniqueness.
Poke House – 5130 Cherry Ave #50, San Jose, CA 95118
The key to having daily long lines and high Yelp ratings at all 4 Poke House locations are extremely high quality food, a great team, and some advice from a Michelin Star chef. Poke House was one of the very first pokeshops to open up in the San Jose area and continues to be the golden standard for competitors.
What initially began as an ambition to bring something healthy to the community quickly became a surprising success. Poke House continues to draw in long lines during lunch and dinner rushes almost daily and for good reason. James, the manager of Poke House and his team bring in fresh fish every morning to serve their customers. The fish are all sustainably sourced from the Faroe Islands and Asia, adding to the overall quality of the fish. Their ingredients are always fresh, and never frozen – they don’t even have a freezer in their kitchens!
Though, a great poke bowl is incomplete without the sauces. Every signature sauce at Poke House is made in house. Their Shoyu sauce brews for over 100 days to allow the ingredients to age to perfection. They also have a house chili oil from fresh peppers from the local farmers market! The focus on fresh ingredients and sustainability resonates from their fish to their sauces.
Be on the lookout for new menu items coming this New Year! They’re preparing to release Hand Rolls and a new, smaller sized bowl for those who treat their current small size as two meals in one.
Poke Paradise – 455 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129
Poke Paradise is one of the newest pokeshops to grace the Bay Area. Longtime poke-lover, Kim, created Poke Paradise to showcase everything she loves about poke, including the ability to indulge without the guilt! Every item she has on her countertop is 100% fresh and never frozen. It’s also the perfect place for clean-eaters because she avoids using any products that have MSG or preservatives. Kim takes extreme care in choosing the ingredients that go into each sauce and topping.
As with every great eatery, consistency is key. Hours before each opening time, Kim begins her day by personally prepping every sauce, topping, and protein that goes into each poke bowl to ensure top quality and taste. She makes each sauce in house, allowing for the perfect balance of flavors that enhance rather than mask the proteins.
Three must-try sauces include the House Sauce, Wasabi Mayo, and Spicy Mayo. The House Sauce is a salty, savory sauce with a touch of tanginess from fresh ginger. It’s created based on months of experimenting to find the perfect balance that is both authentic to poke and flavorful. The two mayo-based sauces use high quality Japanese mayo as their base. This allows for a more buttery texture while enhancing the spices of wasabi in her Wasabi Mayo and Sriracha in her Spicy Mayo.
Finally, for die-hard poke fans who love a great challenge, Poke Paradise is the only place in the South Bay with a Pokebowl Challenge. Challengers must finish an entire 10-lb bowl within an hour without the help of others. Winners receive a free bowl plus $100 cash prize! So far, there’s been 22 challengers but only 1 winner – the one and only Joey Chestnut.
Pokeworks – 55 River Oaks Pl #30, San Jose, CA 95134
Pokeworks is one of the few poke franchises with over 13 locations across the country. Though, more locations only mean more places to get amazing poke. Just like other successful franchises such as Teaspoon and Starbucks, Pokeworks prides itself in its consistency with high customer experience and quality across all their locations.
In addition to the usual proteins and toppings found at many poke spots, Pokeworks also serves some unusual toppings as well. They’re the only pokeshops to serve ogo and hijiki seaweed sourced straight from the Hawaiian coast. These toppings give customers an opportunity to expand beyond their comfort zone and try something a little different. The seaweed will give the poke a more oceany taste, making it a perfect topping for seafood lovers to try.
Every item on their menu balances the next. For each indulgent sauce or topping, they also have a healthy item to compliment it. They have blanched kale to balance balance the heavier rice base and mayo sauces while the citrusy ponzu sauce pairs well with their salmon. For a really healthy and filling bowl, try a half and half base with quinoa and blanched kale. No matter what the preferences are, Pokeworks can create a perfect bowl for everyone.
Santo Market – 245 E Taylor St, San Jose, CA 95112
Santo Market is the go-to poke spot for locals looking for authentic, right off the Hawaiian coast poke. This has been a family owned business in San Jose’s Japantown since 1946 and they’ve been rocking it ever since. The way they serve their poke is vastly different than the Chipotle-style make-your-own-bowls typically found in the Bay Area. Rather, they make their Shoyu and Spicy Tuna fresh every morning for people to purchase by the pound or over rice.
The half Shoyu and half Spicy poke bowl is the best way to try both types of poke. Both are made with tuna, but have very distinct flavors. The Shoyu flavor is a soy sauce and sesame oil based marinade seasoned with seaweed and sesame oil. The salty, yet delicate flavor of the marinade brings out the best of the fish. The Spicy flavor is a sriracha and mayo based sauce and is seasoned with green onion. This is best for people who love a bit of tanginess paired with a bit of spicy.
To order a poke from Santo Market, you’ll need to walk past the aisles of produce and towards the back. There, you’ll find the meat display along with the poke options. Once you choose your poke, bring it to the front registers to purchase.