Poke bowls are as much fun to order as they are to eat

On Main St. in Westbrook resides a counter service eatery serving poke (pronounced po-kay) – a Hawaiian sushi salad. The first of it’s type in Maine, Big Fin Poke opened late last year to stellar reviews, mine included. Since then, they’ve continued quitely serving their bowls and wraps as the just-outside-of-Portland food scene continues to grow around them.

Quite possibly my favorite part of the restaurant is their menu. One big chalkboard on the back wall displays every imaginable option. Not feeling like creating your own? Choose from one of the standard “favorites” at the bottom of the board like Shoyu Classic, Spicy Tuna, or Yellowtail Yuzu and you can still add whatever else you like to it.

Our trip this week brought us on a Friday night where we were looking to eat quickly and get back to being lazy at home. There was only a short line in front of us and the staff were moving quickly, passing people through without delay. As we were deciding what we wanted to eat, we grabbed a couple waters from the beverage cooler and eventually got to the front of the line.

A large ($13.95) bowl or wrap includes three protiens and a small ($10.95) includes two. Proteins include both cooked items and raw seafood. Mrs. Portlandeater went with a small of one of the favorites, the Hawaiian Original – tuna, sweet onion, green onion, chili flakes, sesame oil, seaweed and Hawaiian sea salt. She chose the salad bowl – which is romaine lettuce based – and mixed and matched a few extra items to throw on top.

I created my own large bowl with a brown rice base and chicken, beef, and organic tofu as my proteins. I chose the spicy aioli sauce and accepted the big fin shoyu – their house soy-based sauce – which I believe they normally add to every bowl. For mix-ins, I requested cilantro, jalapeno, green onion, and sweet onion. I took crab salad and seaweed salad as toppings. For crunch, I finished with wasabi peas and wontons crisps.

Before sitting down to eat, I checked out the condiment/silverware/napkin bar which carried favorites like soy sauce, sriracha, and forks, and then headed to meet my wife at the table/shelf looking outside. My bowl looked delicious and I came to the realization that I had probably not chosen the healthiest combination of ingredients. Fortunately, I didn’t care.

The first parts of my bowl I dug into were the salads since they were sitting on top. The (imitation) crab and seaweed salads are both delicious and felt like sides within the meal. I got a little bit of the peas and wontons in each bite too which made chewing a little louder and that is never a bad thing.

Breaded, crunchy chicken and sake shoyu beef were absolutely stunning and with the creamy aioli created a rainbow of flavors that was nearly impeccable, offering sweet and salty tastes in a hearty package of meats. The tofu added a change of pace, and while not as potent in tastiness, still had its place in the bowl.

When mixed together, the cilantro, jalapeno, and onions took the whole package to a different level, adding even more to the already amazing mixture. I couldn’t get enough until I actually did have enough and the bowl was empty. There was no shortage of food in the large and I was as full as I needed to be.

If you go to Big Fin Poke – and you should – feel free to get creative with your bowl. I went a little light on the add-ons this time, but you’re able to get as crazy as you want. Load on the goodies and enjoy your work in creating a masterpiece. That’s half the fun of going. Of course, the food itself is also awesome. Stay tuned for more awesomeness as a new Big Fin comes to South Portland soon too.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start Peterpeterportlandeater.com where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.