Louie Colburn, chef-owner of Ohana Island Kitchen, grew up on the island of O’ahu. One of his most distinct food memories is going to the local supermarket and getting a bowl of fresh poke. The rice was warm, the fish was cold, and the marinade was tangy and sweet.
“It’s not common for people to make this in their homes in Hawaii. My mother didn’t make it. This is a dish that you get at your local supermarket. But it is so common that everyone eats it,” explains Colburn.
It’s this memory that prompted him to create his classic dish: the shoyu poke bowl. This, the spicy tuna, and salmon bowls on the weekend keep a line well out the door of his restaurant at lunchtime each day.
And he is meticulous in his re-creation. He only serves fresh, sashimi grade fish, and never something left over from the day before. His marinades are a science for him and he says that the slightest variation in amounts changes the entire taste and texture.
The marinades are an exact (but secret) combination of soy, ginger, sweet onions, and sesame oil. The fish is cubed up each morning at 6 am and it marinates for 2-3 hours each day. When an order is up, they grab rice from an 11-pound rice cooker that cranks out 50 pounds each day. The fish is meticulously arranged and topped with scallions, sesame seeds, and sweet onions.
“These are the flavors that are truthful to my upbringing. No one taught me this—I specifically recall it and revisit it every time I eat it,” he says.
Looking at it, the dish is extremely simple. But the flavor is powerful and a little bit addicting. “That simplicity comes through. Nothing complicates it. From the temperature to the aesthetic to the attention to detail—you can taste it all.”
And he’s right. Lucky for us, Ohana is expanding their hours beginning June 1. They will be open from 11 am until 9 pm every day except Sunday.