Project Poke Changes the Game With a Fresh, New Take on Sushi
Written By: Ian Hays Project Poke
It’s no secret that sushi is a reigning champ in the Southern California diet. But, over the years, locals’ desire for new and exciting ways to consume sushi began to take shape. Enter in Project Poke. This unassuming joint opened in late 2016 and has been a force to be reckoned with ever since. The small eatery has already accumulated over 36,000 Instagram followers and those numbers grow each day. And it is no wonder their popularity is growing with their innovative takes on traditional sushi.
Project Poke has already mastered the poke bowl. And their sushi burritos are a force to be reckoned with. But, I was there for their latest attraction, the sushi donut. I know what you’re thinking. No, this is not an unholy combination of fried, sweet dough, and savory raw fish. Instead, it is a reinvention of the wheel that is a sushi roll.
I arrived to Project Poke a good 15 minutes before opening. A small gathering of hungry patrons had already beat me there. When the doors opened we all expertly whisked our way into place our orders. The eatery is set up as a small yet sleek, salad bar style establishment where the staff behind the counter tops your bowls and fills you burritos. The modern, gray concrete aesthetic is counterbalanced by the pink accent wall with the words, “Thank You” painted next to the register. It’s the perfect spot for a quick dine in or rushed take out.
While the regulars were rattling off their usual orders, I was trying to decide which sushi donut I wanted. First, there’s the tuna donut. Rice is stuffed with imitation crab meat and molded into the shape of a donut. It is topped with tuna, cucumber, masago, black and white sesame seeds, and radish. Second, there’s the salmon. That one is filled with spicy tuna. It’s topped with salmon, cucumber, red cabbage, radish, masago, and black and white sesame seeds. Lastly, there’s the combo donut. This one is packed with avocado, topped with both tuna and salmon, cucumber, and black and white sesame seeds.
Upon the recommendation of the young woman behind the counter, I went with the combo donut and a side of their popular spicy mayo for dipping. It did not disappoint. With the avocado filling, be prepared for heft. But once you get your technique mastered, the sushi donut goes down with ease. For all of its “wow” factor, it is an excellent work in balance. You have the density of the avocado. The sashimi on the outside is fresh and savory. The cucumber adds a bright freshness and the sesame seeds gives you a bit of crunch. And to round everything out, that spicy mayo is the creamy glaze that kicks the sushi donut up to the next level.
For all of the fun factor in telling your friends you ate a sushi donut, there is great care and pride that goes into this treat. And you can see the same care from the staff as they make all their menu items. They are quick to recommend toppings for the poke bowls for the best flavor profiles. And if you’ve never seen a sushi burrito rolled, the staff at Project Poke treat it like an art form. They do all of this with genuine smiles and jokes for both regulars and newbies.
As for any new specials, staff is a little tight lipped. With the competition to serve the latest and greatest in sushi technology, it’s easy to understand. But I could tell by the laughter and gleam in the staff’s eye that more exciting things are to come. The sushi donut is just the beginning.