Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
Food trends ebb and flow like any other fad. The last five years have seen a boom of all-in-one bowls, with Venice doing it ŕ la Californian and SpiceBros giving it an Indian twist, among others. Preceding all of this was the appearance of poke, the popular Hawaiian dish with Japanese influences, usually served in a bowl.
Montreal has a new player in this field; after opening on Queen Mary Road last summer, Olu Olu Poké has just added a second location at the very edge of The Village on Sainte-Catherine Street East. Today, I drove over to this sketchy part of town to pick up some lunch, on invitation from the newcomer's owners.
Having only tried poke at a handful of spots, I do not have an expansive repertoire to use as a basis of comparison. Where some bowls seem to fall short is with the overuse of sauce, which is usually a variation of soy/ponzu/mayo/sriracha. This excessive drenching does not let the ingredients – specifically the raw fish – stand out.
This was not the case at Olu Olu; their careful application of sauce allowed the salmon, tuna, veggies, avocado, mango, rice and other elements to speak for themselves. The addition of jalapeno and a tempura/crispy rice mix brought in some welcome heat and a crunchy texture.
"brown rice, greens, furikake, salmon, tuna, avocado, edamame, jalapeno, cucumber, ponzu, teri-unagi sauce, crispy mix"
"white rice, furikake, salmon, tuna, crab, avocado, mango, olu special sauce, pickled cucumber, carrot, jalapeno, crispy mix, cilantro"
The new shop employs a Hawaiian/beachy palette, which is reflected in the colorful elements used in its bowls. If I could point out one flaw, it would be with the ordering and receiving process. The two staffers behind the counter today had trouble figuring out who ordered what, even with a handful of patrons waiting on their lunch. With barely a month under their belt, I can forgive this shortcoming.
Otherwise, Olu Olu's fresh ingredients, bright flavours and balanced textures combined for a totally bodacious poke experience, dude!
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.