Poke Stop, 8605 N Beach St, FW. 817-741-9611. 12pm-8pm Sun, 11am-9pm Wed-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Thai Nguyen and Dat Bui opened the Hawaiian-style eatery Poke Stop in Fort Worth on December 7 last year – a day that will live in infamy. Bui’s family runs My Lan, the buzzed-about Vietnamese restaurant on Belknap Street. Like My Lan, Poke Stop is situated in a strip mall and isn’t much to look at. But the North Beach Street restaurant was busy when my two guests and I arrived for Sunday lunch. We grabbed a table under the mural of Godzilla stomping through downtown Dallas.
The menu’s New World Sashimi section features a smattering of six-piece sushi plates with Latin flair. Our salmon ceviche arrived in stacked slices instead of the usual mixed chunks. A thin slice of tomato, mango, and jalapeño topped each tender piece of raw fish. Homemade chile sauce, cilantro, lime juice, and a sprinkle of salt completed the dish. Every element shined in harmony without any one ingredient overpowering another.
The same can’t be said for the garlic albacore sashimi – its flavors clashed. Fried garlic and onion, scallions, and ponzu sauce are all tasty on their own, but gathered together on the albacore, they fought one another and overpowered the freshness of the fish with an overload of aromatics.
The karaage came out kicking, though. The steaming hot Japanese popcorn chicken was served with a pool of spicy mayo. The lightly battered dark-meat fowl was cooked firm and was easy to bite. Like good Southerners, we tossed the chopsticks and used our hands to devour it.
One of my guests who was on a low-carb diet found plenty of options, and she went with the build-your-own-bowl of poke. Choices included more than a dozen vegetables and sides, six sauces, nine toppings, and six types of seafood: tuna, octopus, salmon, escolar, yellowtail, and albacore. Sadly, the yellowtail was not available on the day we visited due to a shipment shortage. My guest ordered a kaleidoscopic amalgam of pink salmon, white escolar, yellow mango, and a green garden of veggies speckled with tan sesame seeds and a wasabi dressing. Delicately arranged on a base of mixed greens instead of rice, it was a healthy indulgence at the peak of freshness.
Kimchi fries were not on anybody’s diet – but they topped everyone’s list for the best dish of the day. The fermented cabbage was stir-fried with butter, garlic, and onions and then piled on a bowl of fries. Everything was drizzled with a cheese sauce and spicy mayo, then flecked freely with togarashi (Japanese chile peppers). The kimchi contained its rich juices just long enough to keep the fries nice and crispy as we dug our way to the bottom of the bowl.
The Vietnamese Summer sushi roll was spicy, and its presentation another colorful collage of ingredients. Purple lettuce and pointy asparagus poked out the roll’s slices, which were also stuffed with mango, tomato, cilantro, and three types of fish: tuna, salmon, and escolar. Shiny ponzu and red chile sauce surrounded the sushi. Myriad textures and flavors came together with a beautiful balance that tasted as good as it looked.
Mochi Madness was the only dessert on the menu: Half-balls of mango, strawberry, and green tea mochi (ice cream wrapped in soft, sticky rice flour) oozed under a puff of whipped cream. The mochi was absolutely delicious if a little boring. (You can buy the same thing at Trader Joe’s.) The dish gained points for presentation, though: The tropical macaroon and yellow umbrella on top were a nice touch of frou-frou.
Karaage (Japanese popcorn chicken) $5
Salmon ceviche $9
Garlic albacore $9
Vietnamese Summer Sushi Roll $11
Build-Your-Own Bowl $10
Kimchi fries $6
Mochi Madness $4