Updated: Mar 10, 2020
Krakowska 29, Kraków. Tel. +48 790642723. Open daily 10.00-20.30.
Having had a bit of a break from restaurants recently, I thought it was time to investigate an intriguing new place that has opened in my part of town recently. Ul. Krakowska has been undergoing renovation for what seems like about a decade now, and although rumours of completion have been rife for months, the road remains closed and fenced off to traffic and trams. As a consequence, several businesses in the Plac Wolnica area have sadly closed down, including the excellent Asian restaurant Horai, which had been doing brisk business for a decade and a half. Nearby Akita Ramen, it appears, has stolen most of the passing trade in the area and queues snake round the corner there most days, even in winter. Such are the vagaries of the restaurant trade. Therefore, it's a surprise to see a new establishment on this road. Oké Poké, opened at the back end of 2019, offers something that, whilst quite rare in Kraków still, is beginning to trend in the food world at the moment - Hawaiian cuisine. The 'poké' of the restaurant's name refers to the Hawaiian word 'to slice' or 'cut crosswise into pieces' and a poké bowl consists of diced raw fish, sushi style, served either as an appetizer or main dish, mixed with fresh fruit and veg. Skipjack or yellowfin tuna, salmon or octopus are traditionally used, and mixed with rice and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables to form a tasty and very healthy dish.
The restaurant has a fresh and bright feel about it to go with the food. The vibe is relaxed and friendly, with chilled music also to match. It's designed with a touch of flair - co-owner (with Maciej Zawadzki) Jolanta Malec is an interior designer as well as a seasoned traveller, and so although this is her first venture into the restaurant world, the attention to detail and is apparent and impressive. It's a relaxing place to sit for a while, and it's designed especially for the lunch crowd. I noticed quite a few delivery guys coming and going while I was there so obviously the online trade is doing well. There are four tables accompanied by wicker chairs and wooden benches. Hawaiian themes adorn the walls and wooden surfboard-shaped menus sit above the counter. Opening hours are 10am-8.30pm, so the emphasis is obviously on daytime trade.
When it comes to what's on offer, it couldn't be simpler. This is a one-meal-fits-all kind of place and so you don't need to sit around for long scratching your head and wondering what to have. It's a poké bowl or nothing. The only choice is whether you'd like the main ingredient to be tuna, salmon or tofu. The accompaniments are somewhat different but you can ask for your own mixture anyway. Priced between 26-33zl for a bowl, it's pretty reasonable, and the portion is certainly a main meal rather than a starter. I went for the salmon one and it came with avocado, mango, edamame beans,thinly-sliced carrot, ginger (the sushi type, marinated) and green onion, also sliced thinly and marinated. All of this on a thick bed of rice. The layer of fresh vegetables was generous, as was the dollop of marinated salmon slices in a spicy mayo. It's a dish that I hadn't seen or tried before, so top marks for originality - my knowledge of Pacific island food admittedly scant. The freshness and tastiness of the (very) healthy ingredients here is key, and it all tastes deliciously nutritious and vital. Yes it's more summery than wintry food, but I think a healthy bowl chock-full of vitamins goes down well at an time. It's a pescatarian's dream meal. Meat eaters however might want to look elsewhere.
The wooden bowl comes with a wooden spoon and chopsticks, so the feel is all quite naturalistic and earthy. In addition to the bowl's contents, you can add your own condiments, of which there are several on a shelf to help yourself to. There are three types of mayo - wasabi, peanut and spicy - and chilli flakes, ground nuts and sesame, plus three types of dressing. It was all very pleasant and I enjoyed the bowl immensely. My only criticism - though it might be a strength in some ways - is the lack of choice on offer here. Having had one bowl, you might not feel any pressing need to come back immediately because there isn't much else to try. On the other hand, what is done is done very well indeed, so you might find yourself coming back because it's so delicious. I liked the wooden cutlery and bowl that came with the meal as well - it felt authentic and quite unusual to be using it.
In lieu of a dessert, which I'd normally review at this point, I tried a 'smoothie bowl' which consists of peanut butter, cocoa, coconut milk, banana, granola, cocoa flakes and chia. Priced at 20zl, this bowl would suffice as a healthy breakfast choice, and as a dessert it's not bad either. The chocolate smoothie makes a great base for a health bowl like this, and provides plenty of energy for a pre/post-gym or run snack. This is a tasty and nutritious option - and pretty satisfying. Again, I'd like to have seen more choices available here, but the menu promises more seasonal variety.
There being nothing else to eat available on the menu, I tried a couple of drinks to round off my visit - a glass of freshly - squeezed juice and a smoothie. The smoothie was with chocolate and banana and was refreshingly cool, coming with a bamboo straw (obvs). The juice, in a slightly smaller glass, was tasty and zingy, as a glass of fresh orange tends to be. Both are priced at around the 15zl mark, but a better deal is the homemade-lemonade which is only 8zl and comes in a refillable glass. Likewise, the coffee (7zl) can be refilled - a nice touch. Has the restaurant missed a trick by not getting a license and offering pina colada, rum or chi chi? Maybe. But it's a focused kind of place and I guess that alcohol doesn't fit the generally healthy vibe here. But perhaps coconut juice wouldn't go amiss.
Overall I'm giving this place a high five-oh and a provisional thumbs up. It offers something new and alternative and is brave in not offering a wide variety of dishes - as Akita Ramen has shown that business model can be wildly successful, so why not. If the one thing you do is excellent, then it's justified. And that is definitely the case here. It won't be for everyone of course, and it's not meant to be. It's appealing to younger, probably less traditional and more open-minded diners - especially ones who are health-conscious and non-meat eating. It will either succeed or fail on that decision, and I'm expecting the former. So far, it appears to be doing so. Let's see if it can continue to surf the waves of the Kraków foodie revolution.
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