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Sushi 2.0: Poke craze hits tipping point with side-by-side eateries
At The Poke Guy restaurant in downtown Vancouver, owner Jak Wong brings a unique taste of the Islands to a West Coast crowd.
When the Richards Street restaurant opened last August, it was one of the first to offer rice and salad bowls topped with raw marinated fish.
And it took off, with daily lineups of foodies looking to dine on the raw fish dish that originated from fishermen in Hawaii who would use their daily catch to make a snack on the water.
"People absolutely love it," Wong, who brought the dishes over from Oahu with his wife, told CTV Vancouver.
But the Poke Guy is getting some fierce competition. Since last summer, new poke restaurants are popping up at a frenetic pace.
Sandra Kwon, who opened Poke Time on Robson Street in 2016, estimates around two new restaurants are opening each month.
"[It's] expanding like crazy," she said.
"We wanted something quick something affordable something people can customize and we knew there was a market for it, especially in Vancouver."
The owners are so confident the trend is here to stay they are opening two new locations in downtown Vancouver.
The culinary craze may hit a tipping point, however, with two poke places set to open literally side-by-side this summer.
The intersection of Nelson and Hornby streets will play host to Hooked Poke Bar and the second location of Pokerito, which features poke burritos made with nori and rice.
Food blogger Richard Wolak said it's hard to believe the trend will be sustainable.
"You can't have a million locations serving the same product," he said. "People are eventually going to pick their favourite."
Poke pioneer Wong is hoping that being first in the market will help them outlast the competition.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried," he said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson