By Tiffany Ran
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Poke to the Max food trucks that brought the Hawaiian poke by lauded “Godfather of Poke” chef Sam Choy to Seattle’s shores, is now on the big screen and at its new brick and mortar restaurant in Hillman City. Since the first poke was served at Choy’s food trucks, the ubiquitous raw fish dish can be found in throughout Seattle; at the grab and go salad bar at Metropolitan Market, in local restaurants, and other small food stands and markets in the area.
“Before opening the food trucks, it was always our hope to diversify. We had our minds on a brick and mortar for some time now, we just couldn’t find a space that had the right vibe,” said Sam Choy’s business partner, Max Heigh.
The Hillman City location, said Heigh, was not just the right space, but an area of great diversity, just like the food Poke to the Max promises to offer. Unlike other poke in town, Choy’s poke aims to offer true Hawaiian flavors by using fish from Hawaii. The restaurant will allow Poke to the Max to diversify their fish options like ahi tuna, mahi mahi, and a fresh catch of the day poke. The restaurant will also offer other cooked specialties including popular food truck favorites like their beef short ribs, ahi tuna steaks, and garlic chicken.
The idea to make a documentary has been on Heigh’s mind has about as long as the idea to open a brick and mortar.
“I always had a love for the islands and the food, but the truth is I didn’t know the meaning behind a lot of it. I knew Hawaiian culture was diverse and full of love, but I didn’t know the real meaning behind a lot of it. When I started working with chef Choy a few years back, he schooled me on the importance of poke to the Hawaiian culture and how he started way back,” said Heigh.
That moment sparked the idea for Heigh for a documentary about Choy and the dish. Heigh also acted as a producer for the film. It’s easy to assume that “Poke to the Max” the documentary would run like an extended ad for the Sam Choy enterprise. However, through the documentary, we are schooled in the meaning of poke; the name of the dish references the cut or dice of raw fish which is mixed with seaweed taken off the beach and Asian seasonings.
“Poke” the film follows the dish from its origins and meanings to its evolution and journey alongside Sam Choy to the shores of Seattle and charts the rise of Hawaiian star chef Sam Choy.
With extensive interviews from chefs, food influencers, and academics like Blue Scholars and Food and Sh*t’s Geo Quibuyen, actor and Kona Kitchen owner Yoji Okumoto, and American Ethnic Studies Professor Stephen Sumida, Ph.D., “Poke” is unexpectedly intellectual, relevant, and serves to cement poke as the next great American dish.
With its documentary film showing at the Seattle International Film Festival this month and the opening of its restaurant location, Heigh says that looking forward, Poke to the Max may look to spread their wings more throughout the city as far as even a Kirkland or a Tacoma location. For now, poke enthusiasts can get their fix at any of the trucks’ regular stops at McGraw Square, Chuck’s Hop Shop, and Queen Anne Farmers Market throughout the summer.
For more information about Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max, visit samchoyspoke.com.
“Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max” playtimes:
June 4 — Ark Lodge Cinemas, 1 p.m.
June 5 — SIFF Cinema Uptown, 5:30 p.m.
Tiffany Ran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.