Poke (pronounced Poh-kay) is to Hawaii what tacos are to Southern California, immensely popular and made in many varieties. However, tacos can be made from pork, ground beef, chicken and even fried fish, while poke can only be made from extremely fresh raw fish and seafood. In Orange County, where the ocean is all that separates the beach communities from Hawaii, the recently opened Fins in Mission Viejo shows that Mainlanders can be just as deft with their poke creations as their brethren at places like Umeke’s Poke in Kona.
Much like the most popular poke places in Hawaii, Fins is not fancy. Dining in food is served in the same clear plastic containers that the take-out orders go into. What is important is that the fish is extremely fresh, meticulously cut and mixed with one of three choices of sauce. Sesame Shoyu is a basic sauce, simple and aromatic with sesame oil. It is a very common poke dressing in Hawaii.
The house-blend Molokai Sauce contains ponzu, a citrus=based sauce and is bright with flavors and mild spices. For the spice fan, the Kilauea sauce is a mayo-vinaigrette with some real kick to it, tempered somewhat by the creamy smoothness of the mayonnaise in it. The Kilauea sauce also seems to be the most popular of the sauces, with guests commenting on the blend of flavors in it.
Ordering is simple; you pick your base (white rice, brown rice, mixed greens); fish (salmon, tuna, both); sauce and size. Extras like octopus, avocado, masago (fish roe) and many other choices are available for $1 per item. Side dishes are also available, the Seaweed Salad is absolutely delicious and one of the best versions of this tasty sea vegetable to be found. Other sides include Edamame, Sweet Potato Fries, Jalapeño Poppers and Miso Soup.
Sizes of the poke bowls are regular and large. Large, actually, should be named humongous, for it is truly for the hearty appetite. One of my guests sitting at the bar (Fins used to be a sushi bar) commented how “huge and heavy” his large was. You definitely get your money’s worth at Fins. But all this would not be so delicious if not for the quality of the fish, delivered fresh from a fishmonger. One taste and you know this is high-quality, sushi-grade fish.
With the various combinations available it is easy to get a poke bowl made exactly the way you want. One bowl that was ordered consisted of tuna, avocado, octopus and the spicy Kilauea sauce while another was half tuna and half salmon, masago, avocado and the Kilauea sauce. The fish is not mixed with sauce until the bowl is made, so it it lightly coated and does not marinate the fish.
Another excellent choice was the poke bowl with masago, octopus and the delicious Molokai sauce. The flavor of the tuna really shown through, while the octopus added some interesting texture and the masago that “pop” that can be obtained from the ultra-fine roe of the capelin fish, an extremely popular garnish and ingredient in sushi bars. The delicious bowl, garnished with thinly shaved sweet onions, was big but so delicious it was easy to enjoy every bite.This was my bowl and definitely a delicious combination.
For those who do not eat raw fish, there are other options. Salmon teriyaki, chicken, spicy chicken and Korean BBQ Bowls are on the menu for those who prefer cooked proteins. Shrimp tempura, chicken, white fish tempura and Korean BBQ tacos add to the variety and there is even a “Machoman” Burrito for the hearty appetite.
Fins is located at 28251 Marguerite Parkway, Suite A in Mission Viejo. Food is either dine-in or take-out and there is plenty of seating. The phone number is (949) 542-7466. Hours of operation are 11:30am-3:00pm and 4:00-9:00pm Monday through Saturday. For fresh, delicious Hawaiian style poke that brings the tradition of Hawaii to Mission Viejo, Fins is highly recommended.