On Wednesday, January 2 OK Poke joined the already solid selection of featured concepts at Zeppelin Station. The restaurant — from owners James Samara and Brendan McManus of Lucky Pie, Mighty Burger and El Jefe — was designed specifically for Zeppelin with the belief that the cuisine would appeal to the food court’s on-the-go clientele. The straightforward menu favors fresh ingredients, dense sushi rice and seasonally available local toppings. The cold-bar only venue occupies a relatively compact corner of the restaurant block, sharing space with Injoi Korean Kitchen. Health and expedience are the central concepts that drive the restaurateurs’ vision. Zeppelin Station’s commitment to sustainable practices also heavily influenced Samara and McManus’ decision to open at the mixed-use space.
The bowls all sit between $10 and $15 depending on the choice of topping. Ahi tuna, salmon, crab mix and tofu are all available and a sturdy list of toppings and sauces complete the assembly. Paper menus are filled out as patrons enter the line, the stylish cards make ordering a breeze. There are three signature bowls but the many options will give regulars a chance to revisit the menu without it ever getting stale. The sauces run the traditional gamut of poke bowl fare — ponzu vinaigrette, ginger dressing, sweet soy, yuzu miso and spicy aioli are all available to be mixed and matched. While there’s nothing entirely original on the list, all the sauces are nicely designed to compliment and magnify the flavor of the fish without ever sitting center-stage. Toppings include jalapeno, edamame, wasabi peas, cucumber, mango, seaweed and several others.
The give a crab (small $10, large $13) is crab mix, avocado, cucumber, edamame, mango and ginger dressing. Unlike many poke locations OK Poke uses real crab rather than the less flavorful imitation salad, the quality crustacean makes a world of difference. McManus stressed the importance of quality ingredients being primary, he hopes that their bowls’ Japanese-inspired simplicity will make the restaurant stand out in a scene where the sauce-heavy Hawaiian variation has been in fashion.
While the opening menu is a thorough start, Samara and McManus are still toying with the final product — the two promise some well-calculated adjustments within the next month. As with all things at Zeppelin nothing at OK Poke is stagnant, the list is set to feature different ingredients as they become seasonally available. The restaurateurs’ existing relationship with local farms is set to provide an established pipeline to great items from across the front range.
Zeppelin Station’s rotating group of restaurants has wound up heavily favoring Asian fare, OK Poke’s bowls fit comfortably without stepping on any toes. While poke restaurants have sprung up across every corner of the city, McManus is confident that the place will succeed based both on the strength of its simplicity-oriented design and burgeoning location. While the group may still be solidifying the menu there is nothing sloppy in the current execution. Stop by soon to enjoy the first iteration of what is sure to become one of the city’s poke staples.
OK Poke is located at Zeppelin Station at 3501 Wazee St. Suite #100, Denver. It is open Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
All Photography by Alden Bonecutter.