The story: Jumping onto the poke bandwagon, the people behind sustainable sushi restaurant Tataki in San Francisco opened a poke eatery earlier this year, not too far away from the restaurant in Lower Pacific Heights. It’s called Limu and Shoyu.
Why I went: Growing up in Hawaii, I’m familiar with the local delicacy known as poke (pronounced PO-kay), which is often marinated raw tuna, although it has grown to include other seafood like octopus or squid. The core ingredients are often the raw fish, saltiness (often shoyu), crushed kukui nut and seaweed (traditionally algae known as limu in Hawaiian). Here on the mainland, people from both coasts have created an assortment of poke bowls that go beyond the traditional by adding a slew of different ingredients, including avocado and pineapples. I didn’t feel this was very authentic so I resisted trying these emerging poke places around town.
But because there seems to be a growing surround sound about poke these days, I decided to give in and try this mainland version. One Sunday when exploring with my friend Arlene, I suggested we try Limu and Shoyu because at least the name sounded very Hawaiian.
The vibe: A tiny store, Limu and Shoyu was brightly lit, showing off the brightly colored walls and large menu board with colorful seafood drawings. Some tiki facades and a ukelele decorated the walls. Overall, it really had a surf shack vibe and I could see it easily fitting into somewhere on Oahu’s North Shore. There are only a small counter to dine in, sitting maybe only four or five people. So it really seems more like a takeout spot.
The menu: You create your own bowls (small for $11 or large for $13), first by deciding the base (white sushi or brown rice, or create a salad with mixed greens) and then the fish (when you order a large bowl you can mix two or three types of fish). Then the sauce for the fish, which can be the traditional version of shoyu and sesame oil or a variation of shoyu with yuzu, wasabi, or ginger. I went the most extreme case, which was having my fish blended with a house-made spicy miso aioli. You can select the various toppings (nine different items ranging from the traditional like limu to nontraditional items like pickled pineapples or fish roe) or be like Arlene who (once known on her Twitter handle as “Cheapskate”) decided to get everything.
My bowl went with traditional fish, the Hawaiian big-eye tuna, with a mix of artic char, and I topped the bowl with scallions, limu, seaweed salad, cucumber, sesame seeds and shredded nori (no pickled pineapple for me). The chunky fish was fresh and meaty, and all the ingredients actually blended well together. But then again, I feel I was a bit conservative in my foray into poke bowls.
The store also sells onigiri, the popular rice ball snacks, including the infamous Hawaii version of Spam musubi. For drinks they mostly just serve the Hawaii-branded Hawaiian Sun juice drinks and tea.
My favorite taste: Since all the dishes are basically rice bowls, I just wanted to point out my favorite taste, which surprisingly was the spicy miso aioli, recommended by the guy at the counter. I didn’t think I would, but I loved it with an orange color from the Sriracha adding a bit of kick to the raw fish.
The last bite: I didn’t think I would, but I enjoyed these non-traditional poke bowls, especially when done with such fresh and tasty sustainable fish like those served at Limu and Shoyu. I’m not sure if I’ll get to the point of adding things like avocado or pickled pineapple for my toppings, so for now I’m just going to enjoy the freshness and casual dining at Limu and Shoyu whenever I have a poke craving.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Limu & Shoyu, 2815 California St. (near Divisadero), San Francisco. PH: 415.757.0889. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 7 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.limuandshoyu.com
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