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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The Build Your Own Bowl at Denver Poke Company

Simone flew home for a quick visit (missing her extra now), and in those two days we hit three movies and managed to squeeze in the beef curry bowl from Kokoro, a Brass Tacks sloe gin fizz from Roger’s Liquid Oasis, and poke to go from Denver Poke Company.

See, over Covid, when the poor kid was stuck in Colorado for the first half of her junior year of college, she worked as a salmon slinger at the cozy little poke place on Platte Street. It was a fun, chill job for her — talking to customers, making recommendations, and building savory edifices of goodness for hours at a time. She learned how to prepare their sweet soy and spicy ponzu sauces while working out the optimal permutation for the thing she loved most about the job — her shift meal. Simone would have been happy to eat a big bowl o’ poke every single day. She never got tired of it.

I’ve waxed joyful on the pure, simple pleasure of Ohana’s traditional poke bowl, but if you’re hankering for something with more kinds of fish and all the toppings, then a stop at Denver Poke Company will scratch that itch.

Just the choice of fish alone — traditional tuna, supple yellowtail, buttery salmon, lightly chewy octopus — sets this place apart. Whatever you choose will be freshly trimmed, rich and raw and only the best kind of fishy. Honestly? You could pick your favorite sauce and walk away with a bowl o’ salmon and tuna on top of their warm bamboo rice and feel like you won the day.

But you won’t do that, because the toppings are next level (literally and figuratively). From the salads (seaweeds, seafoods, kimchi) to the fruits and veggies (pickled or otherwise), to the essential crunchies (the pop of tobiko, the heat of chili oil crispies, the bite of nori or fried onions or garlic) — anything you ask the server to put in that bowl will make its own unique addition to your taste buds.

I used to worry that I’d pick a combo that just didn’t work — too many flavors or too many textures. I didn’t want to overpower the glorious, fatty fish chunks or end up with a messy mélange that didn’t satisfy. But every once in a while, Simone would text to say they’d misread a to-go order and her boss wanted to send the bowl home for me. And even those mistake mishmashes were a yummy delight.

You can down your bowl of freshies and flavor right there in the window of the little store, or carry it over to Commons Park and sit on a sandstone bench overlooking the river to enjoy your fish al fresco. Either way, you’ll want to eat it as soon as you can — with the rice still warm and your yellowtail chilled.

And don’t forget the fresh mango, whatever you do.

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