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Hawaii comes to Kelenföld – California Poké offers colourful cuisine


  • Gábor Wágner

05/08/2021 11.35am

The Hawaiian speciality of poké has recently embarked on its conquest of Europe, Hungary included. This April, California Poké opened near Kelenföld station for takeaway only. Recently, it threw open its doors to sit-down customers too, who can sample versions of this Polynesian favourite adapted to domestic conditions. This namesake dish is raw, natural, tasty, healthy, nourishing and simply delicious. As proven by any visit to California Poké.

You can tell a lot to tell about a place by its guests, not least by its repeat custom. Such was the case with our two visits on successive days to California Poké, where the same diners were tucking in contentedly to the raw, natural, energising and delicious fare. This carefully conceived cavalcade of flavours often invokes love at first taste.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Poké is the traditional food of the Polynesian archipelago, primarily linked to Hawaii. At first glance, you might think that it’s just a salad, but don’t be mistaken. Poké is not an appetiser but a main course in a bowl, most of it raw and full of vegetables. The base is diced raw fish and accompanying rice, supplemented with vegetables and tossed with sauces.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Poké originally referred to the cutting technique by which the fish is diced, but later the whole bowl took its name. Another important factor is colour, as the vegetables aren’t mixed in, but placed side by side in small portions in the bowl.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

California Poké was opened by three friends with a significant gastronomic history, including a married couple. They used to work at smaller or larger restaurants and also toured abroad, serving on ships. They first came across poké at home, in 2017.  It was then that they first thought that it wouldn't be bad to open a poké place here.

But two more years passed, then the shutdown. This year, they opened.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

California Poké is in a good location in District XI, where Somogyi út basks under the shade of large trees, near Kelenföld station and Etele tér – close to Erdős és fiai Confectionery, in fact – in a busy, cosy neighbourhood. Bikás Park, Bartók Béla út, Kosztolányi Dezső tér and Móricz Zsigmond körtér are all nearby. Local residents are always open and curious about anything new, happy to find fresh, healthy solutions. California Poké and the poké on offer fit the bill exactly.

Here, you can choose from seven types of poké bowls but if you’d like to experiment, you can put together a variation more to your liking.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Going back to the menu, it’s also important to note that because the essence of poké is raw, fresh ingredients of excellent quality, the California Poké team offers alternatives to suit the local market. Along with salmon (HUF 2,990) and tuna (HUF 3,190) bowls, there are also sweet-chili chicken and teriyaki beef substitutes – something you won’t find elsewhere in town. 

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

And the combinations include additional flavour variations because creating something new is at least as important a part of the concept as quality and freshness. There are also miso soups (HUF 890-1,390) and puddings (HUF 890). Among the drinks, the cold, refreshing ginger and lavender green tea (HUF 690) is recommended, while Budapest craft beers are also available.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

California Poké is still a new player on the market, in its opening phase, waiting for consumer feedback and watching. Yet returning custom already shows that they are on the right track. There are plans to open more California Poké outlets across town at some point, but in the meantime, they’ll be strengthening and building the brand. A discount card, offering a different gift after every fifth purchase, is a step in this direction.

Photo: Koncz Márton - We Love Budapest

Venue information

California Poké
District XI. Somogyi út 28 
Current opening hours: Daily 11am-10pm

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