(adapted for Food24)
Cape Town was sweltering today when I headed to the new undercover poke restaurant that just opened on Church Street in town. Hokey Poke had quietly launched itself on Monday and not finding a stitch of information about it online – and by information I mean photos – besides a cryptic website, I decided I had to go see it for myself. And so in 32° heat I took a fairly long walk to Hokey Poke, hoping it was going to be worth it. I also was busy writing a piece on hidden gems for Food24, and could tell that it was going to fit the criteria.
Seeing the facade of the street level restaurant, it was clear that something good was happening inside. Sand coloured breeze blocks make up the exterior, with very understated signage and a single strip of pink neon light. It’s downtown LA meets a side street Japanese sushi joint. But inside the decor takes on more descriptions, with cheeky art on the walls by Hoick, along with a now definitive neon pink palm tree that splashes pink on the white walls, and white tiled tables that make the place feel clean and bring out it’s simplistic essence.
The Interior was designed by Christine Joubert, although she worked closely with Hoick who developed Hokey Poke’s image. Owner, Max, explained it was a very collaborative affair, which really shows in the well executed overall design and instantly likable brand that has been created.
The food is made up of poke and more poke, the Hawaiin raw fish staple. A bed of rice is topped with fish and a bunch of other ingredients like edamame, coriander, radish, avo and just about anything fresh. Max explained how he discovered the dish in his travels about a year ago and decided he had to bring it to Cape Town. And he’s done it just in time, as the poke scene is still very much at it’s inception.
My poke bowl which was called Hot 4, was super tasty, with sticky rice, jalapeños, avo, coriander, spring onion, pineapple, fresh tuna, siracha mayo and Santa Anna nachos. I was thrilled about the nachos addition, having a slightly problematic addiction to corn chips, and they added a nice texture to the overall soft ingredients.
I walked out totally routing for this new place. Every inch of the restaurant has been carefully thought out and although I was skeptical about the location, it actually works. It’s safe to say it’s a new favourite, and I’ll definitely find myself doing that long walk again to get some more poke.
For more information on Hokey Poke, click here.
(A version of this article was also written for Food24)