Home Food + Drink From Hawaii to Hoboken: Makai Poké Co. {+ Details on Their New Executive Chef}

From Hawaii to Hoboken: Makai Poké Co. {+ Details on Their New Executive Chef}

by Jennifer
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If you’ve been to Hawaii, you’re probably familiar with its street food specialty — poké.  Poké (pronounced poh-KAY) means “chunk” in Hawaiian and generally refers to raw seafood cut into small pieces and marinated with a variety of ingredients in a bowl. Spoiler alert: It’s delicious. Lucky for us, poké has made its way into Hoboken — Makai Poké Co. on Washington between Fifth and Sixth Streets opened recently, and of course we had to visit {because a trip to Hawaii is a bit pricier than an Uber ride, womp womp}! Open seven days a week, Makai works with local purveyors to provide the freshest, sustainably-sourced fish and produce. We were lucky enough to get to visit the shop during Chef Nakoa’s visit to Makai, and here’s a peek inside our meal/experience:

There is both countertop and table seating, and the atmosphere is refreshing, bright, and inviting. Behind the counter is a giant flat screen featuring Makai’s menu of Chef Specials. Nakoa Pabre, otherwise known as the Prince of Poké, is the owner Umekes in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and the new executive chef at Makai Poké Co. With his restaurant in Hawaii and now Makai, he has been able to take a traditional Hawaii preparation in food and transform it into a type of haute cuisine — always creating and playing around with new mixtures.

^The new poké burrito sold exclusively at Makai Poké Co.

Chef Nakoa, 35, was a journeyman plumber for over 11 years who decided to leave the comforts of his trade and focus all his energy into poké. “The reaction I get from satisfied customers is what makes the whole journey worthwhile,” he shared with us. And clearly it was worth the career switch: Since that time, Pabre has won the annual Sam Choy Poké Competition two years in a row — both overall winner and category winner for both 2013 and 2014 aaaand the Food Network has come to visit his poké eatery and filmed him in action. 

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^Chef Nakoa in action @ Makai – here’s there until tomorrow {Monday, April 24th – so make sure you stop by to say hello!}

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Intimidated by the idea of poké and wondering what to include in your bowl? Not to worry! The staff at Makai is super friendly and will guide you through the line, asking questions that guide your choices and allowing you to try the different ingredients and sauces. First you start with a base — bowl {white or brown rice, zoodles, and/or quinoa}, salad, or burrito {roasted seaweed wrap and sushi rice}. Then you pick the protein(s) of your choice — two proteins for a regular, three for a large, from a wide variety of options, including ahi, shoyu, or spicy tuna, unmarinated shoyu, or spicy salmon, shrimp, kani/spicy kani salad, and tofu. The options cater to all, including vegetarians and vegans. From there, the mix-in choices are endless… and we mean endless. Everything from cucumber, edamame, and scallions to mango, pineapple, and guacamole, are included in the price. You can choose as many as you’d like. Then — wait for it — the sauces. Arguably the best component of your creation. Choose a spicy, salty, or sweet sauce with options that include Hawaiian or wasabi shoyu {a type of soy sauce}, spicy Sriracha mayo, miso ginger, and wasabi avocado cream. YUM. Finally, top it all off with something crunchy like toasted sesame seeds or furikake. And voila! A fresh, colorful, healthy bowl, salad, or burrito, perfect for lunch or dinner. You can build your own bowl, salad, or burrito {PS: use our new Hoboken Girl Deals Directory [here] when you order and you’ll get 10% off your next Poké burrito}.

Not to be disregarded, the Chef’s Specials are divine {and ever-so aptly named}: Kona Classic, Pele, Garden Grinds, So Cali, and Makai. The chef’s special salmon is TO DIE FOR. And you know what’s even more awesome? Makai is now on Seamless and Grubhub {aka the perfect excuse for a girls’ night in featuring poké, vino, and Netflix}.

The space at Makai is fresh and modern — thanks to the work of a New York City designer. It features an Insta-worthy “You had me at aloha” neon sign.

Have you been to Makai? Comment and share your go-to order below!

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