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  • Writer's pictureEric Elkins

Ode: The Spicy Tuna Poke at Ohana Island Kitchen

Look. You can find dozens of build-your-own bowl poke spots around town. Denver Poke Company has some of the freshest fish and the best sauces you’ll encounter, and the experience of adding all the extras — the fresh mango, the tobiko, the nori, the little crunchy bits to top it off — means you end up with the fish bowl you’re craving.

But unless you balance everything just perfectly (or order one of their tried-and-true combinations), sometimes you just end up with a mishmash of flavors that don’t quite marry as well as you’d hoped.

It’s the blessing and the curse of choice.

But at tiny Ohana Island Kitchen in LoHi, the OG of Denver poke — the one that started the trend in Denver and was literally a hole-in-the-wall lunch window at first— you have a choice between two types of tuna poke: shoyu or spicy. Sure, you can add kale or sub it in for rice, and on occasion, they have a fresh salmon special, but the minimal menu means no agonizing over toppings or wondering which fish is best.

And when you dig into your black plastic bowl of poke perfection, you’re overjoyed by the complex simplicity of the dish.

The rice is all warm and pillow-soft and topped with big chunks of raw fish and just enough sauce to make each bite a medley of contradictions. The toothsome texture of the tuna vs. the smooth suppleness of the rice. The spicy and sweet and savory satisfaction of the sauce. The way the warmth of the dish is counterposed by the cool, freshness of the fish. It just all works so well.

It's everything good about poke at once.

Of course, there are times when you want a giant basin of yummy yellowtail or salubrious salmon, sauced up and topped with all the stuff, layers of veggies and relishes, a pile of pickled ginger on the side.

But for the true comfort of a perfectly simple and satisfying poke bowl, Ohana is the spot.

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