Koa Lua: Downtown’s Best Poke Restaurant
Hawaii’s healthy cuisine has made its way to Montreal
After opening Biiru, Escondite and Habanera, the four entrepreneurs behind these successful restaurants, Benjamin Bitton, Yossi Ohana, Moti Meslati and Yann Levy, are now offering restaurant-goers a colorful trip to the Pacific. With two locations in downtown Montreal, Koa Lua serves delicious Poke (pronounced “po-kay”), a Hawaiian specialty sure to delight all raw fish lovers! What started out as a casual walk down Sainte Catherine Street turned into a delightful culinary experience that left us charmed and inspired.
A new approach to fish
For fish lovers and newcomers to Hawaiian cuisine, it’s best to start with a quick description!
A common dish on these Pacific islands, the poke fish is somewhere between the Japanese Chirashi (bowl of rice with fish and vegetables) and the Peruvian ceviche, a raw fish salad marinated with lemon. The term “poke”, which means “dice”, could therefore be called a fish salad. A recipe that lends itself to all influences and inspirations! At Koa Lua, you’ll also enjoy Japanese ingredients subtlety mixed with Mexican jalapenos or Mediterranean aioli; it’s a global menu by any standard…
An evocative style
Enter Koa Lua, the “brave warrior” in old Hawaiian, and you’ll be instantly transported into a retro atmosphere filled with pop references. You almost expect to see Tom Selleck and his iconic mustache walk around the corner! The atmosphere is colorful, cheerful, and conducive to forgetting the winter weather outside! The electric blue walls are covered in island motifs, from a portrait of Elvis to a surfboard, there’s plenty to remind us of the Aloha states’ many traditions…
For Poke, the inspirations come from all over
Koa Lua offers a dozen poke recipes which, as we mentioned, taste like they are sent directly from the heavens of Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Basin…
California was the first to welcome the transoceanic migration of this cuisine, adding spice with its peppers and different kinds of mayonnaise. Japan adds the crunch of tempura or tobiko, the marine flavors of nori or even some wasabi… In short, the chefs at Koa Lua have been inspired from all over the world!
A healthy dish
The rice and fish aren’t everything, and the poke at Koa Lua contains lots of vegetables, fruits and aromas that are not only delightful but contain all the right nutrients required in a healthy and balanced meal. Green papaya, khaki, cucumber, avocado, edamame, mint, coriander, ginger, hemp seeds, there is everything you need for a healthy and tasty menu! Raw fish, a light marinade, a healthy side, it’s exactly what you need to set your digestive system in order: poke is both healthy and tasty, everything we look for in a meal these days…
We can indeed mention several favorites; we really enjoyed the “black magic” poke, a nice combination of salmon and nikiri sauce, which is commonly used in Japanese cuisine to season raw fish. Slightly sweet, it comes to complement the rich flavor of the salmon. You will also find a “crunch mix” in your bowl, which is the nori and jalapeno, a very well-thought combination…
Finally, it was the atmosphere at Koa Lua that we really enjoyed! Relaxed and playful, you really start to feel like you’re near the sun and beautiful beaches! We can almost see ourselves sipping an iced tea between surfing sessions…
1446, Sainte-Catherine St.
1212, Union St.
Photo Credits: Frédéric Ryan- instagram (@feddomtl)