Downtown Poki doesn’t charge extra for avocado. Operating in the same room as Dakao, an authentic Vietnamese sandwich shop, the latest addition to San Jose’s burgeoning poke scene has done away with price-jacking California’s state fruit, and thrown a novel spin of Japanese-Hawaiian-Vietnamese fusion on their made-to-order bowls.

The interior features a funky mish-mash of red and purple booths, retro high stools and burgundy marble tables topped with live orchids. A strip of pink neon beams above the glass-partitioned counter, where employees whip up tailored bowls with three ($9.25) or four ($11.50) scoops of seven types of fish.

Their spicy tuna comes in a silky mash that brings a back-of-the-throat smoky heat. Their octopus comes in oval, purple-ringed slices or tiny appendage tips with puny tentacles still intact—the pliant texture guiding a diner to savor the cephalopod’s distinct flavor. Their fat-marbled salmon packs a rich freshness. And the Ahi, Albacore and Yellowtail tunas come in chilly cubes of sashimi that contrast nicely with the sweet warmth of their shrimp—thin-sliced, butterflied and flash-grilled.

Once ingredients are selected, Poki tosses the scoops into a metal bowl and sauces ’em up. Their wasabi cream softens the nostril-stinging punch of the bright green putty with a restrained ratio of mayo. The house shoyu special is a Japanese take on soy sauce that forsakes the runny, super-saltiness for a thicker, sweeter style. And their miso is thicker still—the peach-colored paste contributes a tanginess and a wallop of the distinctive, tongue-hugging Japanese fifth flavor, umami.

From there, the fish gets laid on a bed of spring greens, white rice or the Vietnamese-inspired tomato rice, which adds a subtle savoriness to the base.

Their pickled ginger packs a spicy, palate-cleansing punch and their crackly strands of seaweed come lightly drizzled in a sweet, roasty vinaigrette. Translucent slivers of cucumber and radish add a floral freshness and bitter earthiness, respectively, but the best crunch comes from their crispy strips of taro root. For the adventurous, fried yams or fresh chunks of mango ought to satisfy. And of course, there’s a thick fan of avocado slices that add their healthy-fat richness to your custom concoction.

When I went, they were handing out complimentary glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ, but that price will probably go up. Beyond that, Poki has traditional Asian soft drinks with unique flavors like distilled chrysanthemum and a type of melon that direct-translated to “White Gourd Drink.”

Downtown Poki
96 E. San Salvador, San Jose.