Anxious, hungry poke fans lined up outside of Bar Bleu, 2506 Robinhood, near Rice Village last night for Houston's first ever poke competition. Eleven teams entered the contest and three winners each were presented for judges' choice and people's choice.
First Place: Nippon Restaurant
Second Place: Flip N' Patties
Third Place: Moku Bar
First Place: Wokker
Second Place: RA Sushi
Third Place: Moku Bar
Nippon, 4464 Montrose, known as Houston's oldest Japanese-owned restaurant, presented a citrusy salmon poke that was fresh, light and savory. With thinly sliced Fiji apples, shishito, green and purple onions, cucumber and almonds and topped with Korean red pepper threads, smoked black and white sesame seeds and a "firefin" sauce made of ponzu, shichimi, chile oil and yuzu.
The other ten teams from RA, Wokker Texas Ranger, The Fish, Flip N' Patties, Cabo's Coastal Kitchen, Agu Ramen, Moku Bar, People's Poké, Mochi Sushi and Enso Donburi submitted creative and interesting poke plates.
Standouts included Moku's Vietnamese-inspired tuna, marinated with lime, fresh Thai peppers and herbs similar to bo tai chanh, a popular Vietnamese happy hour dish. Currently poke fans can find Moku in the Conservatory Food Hall downtown, but owner and chef Tuan Tran told the Houston Press that he is actively looking at a possible brick and mortar in the Heights.
Food truck kings Wokker brought home a trophy as the People's Choice first-place winner with a small mound of salmon and avocado mixture presented in a golden nest of crispy, fried sushi rice. Wokker has set up a semi-permanent home and partnership with Craft Beer Cellar at 907 Franklin.
Filipino food truckers Flip N' Patties’ rendition was one of the tastiest tuna bites of the evening. The pieces were fresh and fat, the umami flavors were brilliant, and the fried croutons were semi-sweet and reminiscent of pound cake.
Flip N' Patties has made a home inside Lincoln Bar in the Washington Corridor at 5110 Washington.
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More than 400 tickets were sold; guests were limited to one sample from each team's booth. Sponsored partners included Magic Cup, Bumble and Exitus VR. The showdown was Reverberate's debut public event. The new marketing agency pledged to donate profits from ticket sales to a local nonprofit organization, Kids Meals. Videography was provided by Museabouts, a local media company.
Many new poke establishments were missing in last night's contest. Favorites like Seaside, Ono, Northshore and Pokéology were nowhere to be seen. For now, the poke force is strong in Houston. Let's hope we see a Second Annual Poke Showdown that's even bigger and better next year.