I LOVE Poke! I first tried it in Hawaii a long time ago and it immediately became my favourite Hawaiian food (yeah, not Spam!). Last year I went to San Francisco and one of our best dinners was at Liholiho Yacht Club and their poke reminded me of how much I love this dish.
It seems like poke has finally made its way to the UK, albeit a few years later than it became a trend in the US, and seems to be spreading rapidly throughout the city with several poke-centric spots such as Black Roe and Ahi Poke.
When my friend Claire suggested Black Roe, the newly opened spot from the same owners as Chotto Matte for our girls night out, it seemed like the perfect idea.
We were all looking forward to a cocktail, but the list was a bit too fussy – why are people now making complicated cocktails with tons of ingredients? Some of the girls settled for an off-menu drink, while I stuck to the true-and-tried vino.
Black Roe’s vibe is cool, fun décor and buzzy energy. The walls are adorned with big black and white portraits of their food suppliers, a very cool idea.
What we ate:
The Black Roe poke: with cubed ahi and yellowtail and a dollop of black roe. This was our least favourite poke despite being their signature dish. It was bland and as with the other pokes we ordered, had too much rice and not enough fish and the spicy yuzu salsa was not spicy enough.
Vegetable poke: some of us thought this was the best poke as it had a nice kick from the sriracha citrus salsa and interesting texture combo with the crunchy vegetables. Much better than the fish poke, but I still liked the beef tataki poke best.
Beef tataki poke: I like beef but tend to steer towards fish, in this case however, it was my favourite starter with a better beef-to-rice ratio with a nice roasted sesame soy dressing.
Grilled scallops: this dish was straight out bad. Two scallops for £14.50 and not even any good. I left mine half eaten, it was served with the coral, which overpowered the entire dish and made it way too fishy. I always find the coral’s texture odd anyways and would much prefer if it was left out. The waitress asked if we didn’t like it and despite the fact we confessed we weren’t keen on it (the uneaten bits should have been a good proof of that), they still left it on the bill. The scallops were served with an overly crunchy black quinoa and some forgettable mango salsa.
Lobster and crab pot stickers: these were nice, the dough was thin and they were drizzled with a spicy sauce that complimented the crab and lobster flavours well.
Octopus: I absolutely love octopus but also recognize that finding a good one is often challenging as it can easily become rubbery, which happened at Black Roe. It was not bad but still required copious chewing. It was served on top of a non-distinct mashed potato type puree with some chilli and coriander salsa.
Cajun style blackened seabass: this dish was hands down the best we had all evening. The fish was perfectly cooked, flaky and tasty and coated in nice Cajun spices and served with a deliciously fresh and chunky pineapple salsa that balanced the Cajun seasoning perfectly.
Kale with garlic butter and sautéed broccoli: the kale was just fine but the broccoli was overcooked and both sides were tiny.
Chocolate Malibu ice cream: this was fantastic! The ice cream was very creamy and the chocolate, coconut and rum combo was perfect.
Shake and Bake: our waitress couldn’t fully articulate what this dessert was (I am not sure anyone could really) but it sounded fun and it was supposed to be a dessert for two, which suited us perfectly. It definitely turned heads as this massive goblet of overflowing “things” was delivered to our table. The dessert was an odd mix of a room temperature milkshake in the massive goblet like cup, with floating pieces of coconut cake and surrounded by everything and the kitchen sink: cookies, caramel, meringue, fudge, etc. It certainly made us laugh and got us talking to the table next to ours and got us all excited. In the end, the whole thing got us dreaming of the enormous potential this dish had … if there had been a banana split with that fantastic chocolate Malibu ice cream (instead of the odd lukewarm milkshake) under the yummy whipped cream, popcorn, marshmallows and hot fudge… we both might have moved into the restaurant!
In sum: great buzzy vibe and even though the food was hit and miss, I would want to eat that beef poke, the charred seabass and that amazing chocolate Malibu ice cream again.
Ps: credit to Claire for bringing positivity to this review. I was in a crabby mood when I wrote it but thankfully I sent it to her for a quick read (not the thorough edit, which was done by my great friend Nanda) and her thoughts brought back memories of the great things we experienced and of a very fun evening!