Hey, have you heard about the cool new thing? It’s poke, man, Hawaiian raw fish cubes in a spicy salsa marinade atop a sticky short-grain rice clod. Think ceviche meets sushi by way of bibimbap.
You can hardly move for people eating the stuff, elbows jutted out, a bowl in each hand, frantically scooping it into their faces and scattering sesame seeds and fish eggs far and wide in a kind of feral, seafood-induced frenzy. Or so the shadowy cabal who decide food trends would have us believe. In either case, Black Roe is the first London restaurant to specialise in the dish, with a menu that encompasses all culinary corners of the Pacific Rim.
WHERE? 4 Mill Street, W1S 2AX in Mayfair, on the site of owner Kurt Zdesar’s now-defunct French seafood venue Bouillabaisse and just a short distance from gaudy purveyor of high-end ocean-snacks, Sexy Fish. The spot is dark, all mirrors, gloss and polish, but the atmosphere is regimented and buzzy, with a quiet electronic soundtrack and humming neon signs.
WHO? Head chef Jordan Sclare has previous form in Pacific cuisine, having also overseen the menu at Zdesar’s pan-Asian diner Chotte Matte in Soho where he merges Peruvian and Japanese dishes. There’s a personal touch too, as looming over the black marble tomb of a dining room are half a dozen black and white portraits of the brave fish-botherers who’ve caught, snagged and harpooned your lunch.
ORDER THIS… The Black Roe Ahi and Yellowtail Poke is their signature bowl and far and away the finest example of the dish you’ll find, with fresh and cleanly diced fish (“ahi” is tuna) marinated in a sweet and slightly hot yuzu sauce. But don’t overlook the kiawe wood grill, where you’ll find Cajun-style blackened seabass on an unappealing looking, but great tasting splodge of pineapple salsa.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? There’s a 20-seat chef’s table downstairs that can be booked out, but for more personal meetings the booths upstairs make a fine venue for client lunches.
NEED TO BOOK? You almost certainly do need to book, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to eat after work, when the places really starts jumpin. You can reserve a table online by visiting blackroe.com or by calling 0203 794 8448
THE VERDICT… There’s still a glimmer of hope that poke might hit the big time in 2017, though at Mayfair prices (it’s around £11 for a bowl hardly larger than your fist), it’s probably fair to say it won’t be replacing Itsu at your desk any time soon. But Black Roe expertly paves the way for poke-apprentices to follow.
ONE MORE THING… Poke is pronounced “poe”, as in Edgar Allen, and “kay”, as in Peter, something I probably should have mentioned at the beginning of this piece.