In an Eater article in 2016, Vince Dixon took a data dive into the spread of Poke (pronounced po-kay), the Hawaiian raw fish salad, across the rest of the United States. According to Foursquare data cited in Dixon’s article, “the number of Hawaiian restaurants, including those that serve poke, has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 342 venues to 700 as of August 2016.”
In May 2017, Dublin’s first official poke restaurant opened on Capel Street. Now, the trend had hit our shores before then. The Fumbally have been offering up bowls of their take on this yummy dish since around late 2016 but Klaw Poké is Ireland’s first dedicated poke place. The man behind Klaw Poké is Niall Sabongi, who you may know from Rock Lobster, Klaw in Temple Bar and the wholesale seafood business Sustainable Seafood Ireland (SSI).
Klaw Poké is a cool space, a seafood shack with a seaside feel. There are just 25 seats, most of them at a bar overlooking the kitchen. There’s an oyster shucking section and a poke assembly area at the front, while towards the back there’s a Yakitori charcoal grill to add a little flavour of the beach to the dishes.
There’s a bit of cross-over with Klaw in the menu, and it’s a welcome one, particularly when faced with sweet crab on toast (€10) spiced up with Old Bay Seasoning. The Flaggy Shore oysters (€2.50 per oyster) are a hit with the jalapeño vinegar dressing. A bowl of hot Galway surf clams (€10) are sweet and garlic soaked.
There’s an option to create your own poke or you can choose one of four pre-designed bowls. The classic Ahi poke (€10) is a combination of raw tuna (traditionally yellowfin but the menu here doesn’t distinguish what type of tuna it is), cucumber, ponzu, edamame, ginger and brown rice. It’s an almost overwhelmingly “clean” dish, which may go some way to explain poke’s proliferation in the last couple of years. It’s the kind of bowl that could really get you through a busy, stressful work day, when you just need some super healthy fuel to give you the energy to power through.
The Mauna Kea poke (€9.50) is a much more cheerful dish, and not such a poke po-face. It’s a combo of rich and creamy avocado and cubes of raw Irish salmon, a tasty kimchi and sriracha sauce. It feels nourishing and healthy but there’s a little more craic to it than the humourless Ahi.
The team at Klaw Poke were still experimenting with ideas for simple yet effective desserts when we visited. We tried out the grilled peaches with lemon zest, biscuit crumb and cream (€5.50). The simplicity of the dish was well pitched to the laid-back context of Klaw Poke but the execution needed a bit more care. A work in progress. With dessert, a glass of Albarino and a San Peligrino lemonade, our bill came to €66.20.
While a few ingredients are clearly linked to their provenance, such as the Irish salmon, Flaggy Shore oysters and Galway surf clams, there’s not a lot of information on the menu about the provenance of the other seafood. The menu is written up on the wall so they’re perhaps limited for space but I would really like to see some further information about where the rest of the ingredients, such as the octopus and the tuna, are being sourced.
When we visit, the gang have been opened here on Capel Street for just over two weeks and there’s a definite air of barely controlled chaos about the place. It’s kind of fun but it’s also a little intense. They were slammed on the Wednesday night we visited, and it appeared to us that they were still figuring out some of their service systems, such as who was going to greet us and seat us, and who would actually serve us. These little quirks will no doubt be smoothed out once the team find their feet in their new home.
It’s a treat to be able to sit at a bar that peers into a kitchen but it means the team are very much under the gaze of the guest. The customer is all up in their grill, almost literally. They’ll have to walk the line of sharing the buzz and excitement of a busy kitchen with their customers, and being careful that it doesn’t teeter over to the realm of stress-on-display, particularly for those sitting at the bar seats.
Klaw Poké is open for lunch, too, and it’s a great addition to Capel Street. More than that, it’s a great addition to the options for fresh, cool seafood plaices in the city, which is something that Sabongi has continuously done to brilliant effect. Fish puns intended.
159 Capel Street
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photos: Killian Broderick