Poke U and Me
4726 Telephone Road, #1B
Ventura
805-535-4244
$11-30

There are few places where the highlight of the meal is solely focused on the wide range of available ingredients, literally, in one dish. And it’s no wonder that poke places have gained so much traction and popularity. If it’s fresh, if the quality is there, how can one ignore such wonder?

My companion and I headed to Poke U and Me in the Winco-anchored shopping center in Ventura, located next to the longstanding Royal Bakery and Cafe. We had already had a good experience at Poke Land, a competitor, and wanted to see what this venture was like.

The décor is modern and sleek, themed in galvanized steel and black furniture. It’s sort of cold, but it works. The young ladies running the store are friendly and engaging. One gal even recognized the infamous Rick of Rick and Morty on my socks. She confirmed that she is the Morty — maybe not, but at least she seemed to have fun with the scenario.

The sky is the limit on what type of meal you want to have. For me and my partner, we were all in. We ordered the medium bowl, which included three choices of protein ($11.99). The small has two ($9.99) and the large has four ($12.99). I selected the seared Cajun tuna, octopus (cooked) and shrimp ceviche atop jasmine rice. Other protein options included tuna, spicy tuna, salmon, albacore, shrimp, scallops and organic tofu.

For my bowl, the rest of the toppings I added included the house spicy and yuzu citrus sauces (I was particularly partial to the yuzu citrus with its refreshing tang and soy sauce highlights), sliced cucumber, edamame, pickled radish, cubed mango, julienned carrot, corn, pineapple chunks, diced green and yellow onion, sliced pickled jalapeño, baby spinach and chopped cilantro. And then we added a little more: masago, furikake, seaweed salad, crispy onion, tamago and spicy crab meat. We skipped the pickled ginger, regular crab meat, wasabi and cheese on that last round of choices. But we did indulge in one final sprinkle of sesame seeds at the very, very end.

For drinks, there was a variety of Asian/Japanese options. I chose the blueberry Ramune as a salute to my adventurous son who always loved popping the marble into the drink, which breaks the seal to access the soda.

As I dug into my bowl of endless combinations per bite, I thought about the sushi craze that began, for me, sometime in the 1990s. I thought about how many different kinds of rolls and combinations there were to explore, sort of like a box of chocolates. The only thing that wasn’t great about it is if you didn’t like the first bite, well, you were stuck with five to seven more bites to eat of the same thing. When it comes to these poke places, I wasn’t “stuck” with anything. I had octopus, pineapple and seaweed salad in one bite and Cajun tuna, cilantro and tamago in another. I could go on and on about how many different flavor and texture combinations were to be had in one meal, but it’s easy to see all of the possibilities. For $12, I was able to fill up and have the rest later for a healthy snack at work — though I wouldn’t save it for another day. Fresh, uncooked fish needs to be eaten posthaste.

While I wouldn’t have poke like this every day, or poke in general every day, I would go back to Poke U and Me . . . and maybe try a less-is-more approach. Instead of all the ingredients, perhaps just double the cucumber and pickled radish and a sprinkle of cilantro with a scoop of spicy tuna and scallops. Again, being the proverbial master chef of my poke bowl has limitless possibilities at Poke U and Me. If that’s your thing, go check it out for yourself.