Poke-Chan Is Big Kahuna Of Fish Bowls

The small St. Claude spot stands out among a wave of new poke places.

by Lorin Gaudin
August 21, 2018

With a steady stream of new restaurants offering the mixture of diced raw fish and seasonings, poke is the new food of the moment in New Orleans. (Move over, sandwich/pizza/hamburger/hot dog/donut/BBQ.)

Los Angeles-based chain LemonShark has opened only a scant few blocks from Poke Loa on Magazine Street. Aloha Lei has moved into the upscale food court at the Auction House Market, and a dozen or more sushi restaurants have added “bowls” to their menus. Even grocery store sushi vendors are getting in on the action, selling pre-made bowls from their cold cases. All these places are terrific for poke basics and a few even swim past the OG 1970’s Hawaiian creation to include cooked proteins, tofu, vegetables, and a stunning array of condiments.

This is a meal that makes for bright, colorful and perfectly Instagrammable, edible art. In a wading pool of same-same, how does a fish stand out from its school? I did some serious poke-ing around and found there is local stand out.

Poke-Chan, positioned on the border of our Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, is tucked inside a converted home on St. Claude. The plain beige facade and small sign, sometimes obscured by overgrown trees, isn’t always easy to see. You want to look hard because the food is worth the effort.

A little raw talk: poke is in essence, an unwrapped fancy sushi roll. Poke-Chan takes things next level with Japanese and Vietnamese influences owing to the chef-owners’ heritages and work experience. Sisters Loan, Susan and Lien Nguyen, along with their pal, Dalena Vo, partnered for Poke-Chan. Two of the sisters had worked at Frenchmen Street’s dearly departed Yuki Izakaya, and also at nearby cool cafe, N7.

Climb the long ramp at Poke-Chan’s front entrance to discover a brightly lit, airplant-hung space with a decent number of tables, comfortable seating and a few stools at the counter facing St. Claude. Grab a dry-erase pen and a menu to “make your own” fish-veg-condiment concoction or order a composed bowl of raw or cooked protein. There are many specialty toppings here, like dark wakame seaweed or crispy wheels of lotus root. To eat, it’s always a toss up among the cooked bowls – the Savory Shroom — filled with the umami flavor of frilly woodear fungus and shiitake mushroom —  or the knobby twists of crunchy Karaage (Japanese style marinated and fried chicken) with brash kimchi and spices. That said, on my last two visits, I was lured by signs announcing homemade fish and hamachi kama. The Vietnamese style fishcakes (surprisingly, not all that common here in New Orleans) come three-to-an-order. These are garlicky, firm patties to eat by hand after breaking them in half, wrapping them in greens and adding squeezes of fresh lime juice . The yellowtail collar (hamachi kama) which looks like a strange bird wing, is dropped sans batter into the fryer, so the skin crisps and the fish stays juicy. There’s a citrusy, garlic-flecked ponzu sauce for dipping and more fresh lime.

There is a shelf of beverage options — I go for iced oolong or canned milk tea — and at the napkin-chopstick-soy sauce stand, there are large jugs of self-serve ice water. Dessert is a a simple thing: a packaged, fish-shaped waffle filled with ice cream and sweetened red beans. You want one, I promise.

In our big pond of stellar restaurants, with an ever-growing stream of poke places from which to choose, Poke-Chan is a little fish making a lot of waves.

Poke-chan
$$$$
Getting there
2809 St Claude Ave #7224, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
Hours
Mon Closed
Tue-Sat 11:30am–8:30pm
Sun Closed
More Info

More Local Stories

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Sanford

On this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando explore what’s new in the Northern part of town. Sanford has a plethora of breweries, bars, and delicious dining options to choose from.

Hometown Tragedy: The Pike County Massacre

On this episode of Hometown Tragedy: Missing in Milwaukee, we’ll explore what happened to Jerica Banks, her children, and how it impacted their community.

Six New Orleans parks that are perfect locations to celebrate 4th of July

Head to one of these six New Orleans parks to celebrate Independence Day in the city.

Cheap Date Orlando: Punk Rock & Pooches

Two Orlando couples shop vintage, search for the perfect slice, visit a post-apocalyptic saloon, and take the stage on blind dates in Orlando.

Fit and Fab: Free summer workouts in Boston

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images Looking to get fit for the summer? Still wary of COVID-19 or just looking for some sunshine while you sweat? Here are some Boston free summer workouts across the city so you can keep moving all season long! Seaport Sweat May 2 to Sept. 29 Boston’s biggest free workout series…

What’s On the Menu?: Farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement brings locally grown foods to your plate. Not only will enjoying farm-to-table meals allow you to indulge in fresh, nutritional, seasonal dishes, but farm-to-table dining helps the environment and supports the local economy.  Check out these delicious farm-to-table restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina on the latest episode of What’s On the Menu?. …

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

A guide to Pittsburgh’s summer events must-do list

Check out our roundup below for the can’t-miss events happening in the city over the next few months.

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Tarpon Springs

In this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando you’ll be transported to a thriving Greek community nestled on Florida’s gulf coast. From sponge diving to flaming cheese to a Greek bakery that supplies a ginormous amount of baklava to the entire country, you’re sure to fall in love with Greek culture in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Dorchester doughnuts that pack a paczki

These traditional Polish pastries are the real deal.

black owned brunch spots new orleans 14 parishes

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

Queen Trini Lisa’s Ascension to New Orleans’ Caribbean Soul Food Throne

Lisa Nelson didn’t plan on being a chef. She didn’t anticipate becoming a queen either, but true to the most beloved of royalty, the people made her one.

A grab-and-go food guide to the MSY New Orleans terminal

Time. Most of us don’t have a lot of that. Even less so when we’re rushing to make a flight. There are still plenty of tasty options for the less leisurely travelers among us, though it helps to know where to find them.

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.