Hamden’s Hawaiian Hotspot

Madison Fraitag

[media-credit id=2117 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]It’s dinner time at Quinnipiac. Your options seem to be limited to Chartwells, Dominos and easy mac. In the middle of the spring semester, it doesn’t seem feasible to venture out of Hamden for the diverse cuisine of New Haven. Do you stick with the usual? Not anymore.

A quick 10-minute drive down Dixwell Avenue lies Hamden Plaza’s latest addition. Pokémoto Hawaiian Poké replaced FroyoWorld, standing next to Panera Bread and Moe’s Southwest Grill. This simply decorated, bright new spot features a wide variety of options, falling under the “Signature Bowls” and “Build Your Poké” categories on the menu.

As I waited for my turn to order I almost panicked at the sheer number of options I had. With five types of protein, nine mix-ins, 14 toppings and even more categories I couldn’t imagine were necessary, I was tempted to settle for a signature bowl. However, as the indecisive yet nonconforming person that I am, I went with “Build Your Poké.

After selecting from poké bowl, poké burrito or poké salad, I was instructed to choose from white or brown rice. Up next was protein, mix-ins, flavor, toppings and crunch, some of which required some explanation.

[media-credit id=2117 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]After some help from a very friendly and enthusiastic employee named Kevin, I ended up with a massive bowl including white rice, mixed greens, salmon, ahi tuna, cucumber, edamame, mango, hijiki seaweed, scallions, ginger, seaweed salad, garlic chips, shredded nori, creamy miso and spicy mayo. As if this wasn’t enough Kevin gave me little choice but to add on a cup of vegan, house-made miso soup, a Hawaiian Sun mango-orange drink and a sample of non-dairy pineapple and strawberry Dole Whip.

In short, this was an enormous meal, which eased my initial distaste for the high prices. Now the question became, ‘Where do I begin?’

The miso soup was okay, a little lacking in tofu but definitely not a disappointment. In a vain attempt to cleanse my palate, I moved on to the Hawaiian Sun mango-orange drink. This non-carbonated, naturally-flavored juice drink was shockingly not too sweet. The bright, citrus-laden beverage was the perfect refresher before diving into my poké bowl.

The moment of truth. I almost didn’t know where to begin with this work of culinary art. The vibrant colors of the mango, edamame and and cucumber against the bleached canvas of sushi rice looked almost too good to mix together. After a moment of admiration, I made a valiant attempt to get a small bit of everything on my fork, taking my first bite.

This menu could not have been more well thought out. The mix of textures and flavors in every bite were so perfectly balanced. A mix of crunch, spice and the refreshing bite of fresh fish was something I never expected to find in Hamden. Even after I decided I couldn’t take another bite, the remaining mixed up meal was still tempting.

[media-credit id=2117 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Pokémoto is Hamden’s relief from its usual metropolis of fast, greasy and mass-produced food. In walking distance from Pokémoto, there is a McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Subway, Popeye’s and Chipotle, and that is just what I can think of off the top of my head. Pokémoto provides consumers with a fast, healthy alternative to fried food for just a few dollars more than the many unhealthy alternatives. No more excuses for gross eating habits.

The unique eatery also caters to diners of all dietary needs. Poké goes beyond raw fish, with offerings such as cooked shrimp, grilled chicken and tofu on the menu. Anyone can find a meal for them here, with vegan, non-dairy and gluten free options available.

Although the Hamden location has only been open since Feb. 11, it has already proved to be impressive, currently boasting a five-star status on Yelp with 15 reviews.

“It’s basically like Chipotle but with Hawaiian/Japanese sushi ingredients,” Yelp user Val D. wrote. “Everyone on the staff was very nice, helpful, and attentive… The portion was extremely generous. I kind of figured they would be skimpy with the fish, but I was pleasantly surprised and had a perfect amount of fish to eat with the other ingredients.”

Whether you’re in desperate need of a break from café food or you simply want to try something new, Pokémoto is your new place to go.