[image-1]I’ve been to Poke Tea House five times in last four weeks. But if you’d like an endorsement beyond my bank account, here goes. The small shop on Spring Street (don’t let the Meeting Street address confuse you) is serving what I consider to be one of the most convenient, satisfying, and (relatively) healthy lunches in the city right now.

Poke — a Hawaiian raw fish appetizer (typically ahi tuna) — is served in three formats: rice bowl, burrito, or salad. But to hell with those last two choices, the bowl is the way to go ($11.99 with one protein, $13.99 with two). Belly up to the cash register and meet Chu Xin Jiang. Jiang says she learned about poke not from time in Hawaii, she’s never been, but from her brother who owns a Japanese Restaurant. As the Post & Courier reported, Jiang learned more exploring poke places in New York where she lives part-time.

At Poke Tea House, the friendly owner will take your order and walk you through the various toppings — 40-some — to place upon your rice.

For my money, I skip the brown rice option and go for the good stuff, the sushi rice. With that base you can choose your protein and you don’t have to have poke, although I’d strongly recommend it. Scallops, chicken, tofu, and more are all available.

The next step is selecting your three fruit or veg toppings. I prefer pineapple, cucumber, and edamme, although there are many more. Add a sauce — the Sriracha mayo is great but I’ve also heard good things about the sweet chili option — and finish it off with maybe some seaweed and avocado or pickled ginger and fried onion, and $11.99 later, you’re good to go.

Now I realize you might be thinking a poke bowl is a poor man’s Short Grain O.G. Bowl and in some ways you’d be right. It’s a rice-based dish of raw fish with various toppings. But Poke Tea House is an entirely different concept than the award-winning food truck. It’s a fast/casual spot that offers fresh ingredients that can be mixed and matched in all manner of options. It’s not going to win a James Beard award, but with Poke Tea House’s tasty bowls and free parking across the street in the defunct BiLo parking lot, it will continue to get my business. 

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