Pokebab

We recently hosted a meet up at Pokebab, a bright and quaint Poke (pronounced Poh-Kay) Bar in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Poke, which is native to Hawaii, is a dressed raw tuna salad with fresh toppings such as scallion, cucumber, and seaweed salad. This restaurant had more of a Japanese influence so ingredients such as edamame, masago, oshinko and ponzo are available.

As I entered, I immediately felt a warm and inviting environment. The restaurant was brightly lit with earth toned decor. The relaxing ambiance and neutral decor allowed all of the vibrant colors of the fresh toppings to stand out. This enabled me to build a Poke Bowl based off of how the options looked rather than the taste. I haven’t had many of the Hawaiian and Japanese vegetables and flavor options before eating at Pokebab and I am excited that I was able to explore the diversity of Island flavors.

This restaurant offers a fast-casual dining experience (think Chipotle but with Poke) allowing customers to create their own unique Poke Bowls, Poke Burritos, and Poke Salads. Already being an extremely indecisive person, I did not know where to start. When it was my turn to order I froze and quickly chose the Classic Poke Bowl. The sweet counter person who made my bowl made many suggestions and gave me an array of sauces to sample. Their Ponzu sauce which looks similar to soy sauce is Amazing! Also their Pokebab Sauce had me licking the spoon. It’s super tasty. At one point i was just shaking my head yes to whatever she suggested for my bowl. The end result was a colorful and nutrient packed bowl with raw tuna, corn, cucumbers, radish sprouts, ginger, edamame, scallions, with their Sweet and Sour, Pokebab, and fresh Ponzu flavors on a bed of spring greens and white rice. If consuming raw tuna is not your thing, grilled chicken, seared tuna, shrimp and tofu are alternative protein options. They also have canned tropical juices available like Strawberry Guava. I sipped on an Island Iced Tea.

Pokebab

Upon first taste, I drew a similarity to Sushi. Poke reminded me of a deconstructed tuna roll. With my extra toppings added it was as if a tuna roll literally let loose and had a dance party. Poke was extremely fun for me to consume and I really enjoyed how all of the many flavors and textures were able to marry into pure deliciousness.

Although the dining area was limited, we were able to join tables and enjoy our Poke Bowls. Everyone had different bowls and most of us were able to agree that the Poke was fresh and delicious. All the flavors really stained my taste buds with a happy feeling which makes me want to go back and make endless Poke Bowl combinations. If you’re ever in Williamsburg, I totally recommend that you try Pokebab at 209 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11211.

Do not forget to add the Pokebab Flavor!

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eataly-downtown-i-ravioli

As a busy New Yorker, coming across a ravioli bar like I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown is ideal for my day-to-day. While I normally frequent their Flatiron location, I happily accepted an offer from the Eataly team to visit their second location. I had never been to Eataly Downtown so I was excited to see what was in store, literally.

Though I was guided to the bar upon arrival, I loved that there was a pathway on the floors that was leading the way. Now, you never have to worry about getting lost in the hustle and bustle of lunch since it takes you directly to where you need to go. Before approaching the bar, you get to see the chefs making the fresh pasta and the variety of options. Both chefs present on my visit seemed happy to chat about what they were making for the day, and knew plenty about each variation shown. They explained the process and how quickly it would be for me to get my meal. After the chef made a few suggestions on his favorites, I was ready to try them out for myself.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli-station
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The menu was pretty easy to choose from and so was having a glass of Rosè while I waited. The ravioli comes stuffed and there are a number of sauces available as well so you can pick your favorite day (based by sauce) to come grab your bite to eat. It wasn’t even three sips later, when my order was already up for me to grab. It was really quicker than a New York Minute, which is perfect for someone always on the go. Should you have some time to spare, there was ample seating to enjoy.

I ordered the prosciutto stuffed ravioli with the sauce of the day which was a mushroom, arugula and beef sauce. To my surprise, I was also invited to try the Pesto Trapanese, as well as, the Carbonara sauce over a bed of ravioli. I was already enjoying the pasta I ordered but the Carbonara had come to steal the show. It was creamy, with the right amount of cheese and sauce to compliment it. I found myself digging my fork back and back again into the bowl.

eataly-downtown-i-ravioli
Photo by Tanya Maithai

The best part about the experience at I Ravioli at Eataly Downtown was that you could take ingredients home with you and recreate what you’ve had. From fresh pasta to the sauces, everything is suddenly available to you for the days you won’t have time to run in for lunch. Again, completely ideal for any ravioli lover, especially one who wants to bring the taste of Eataly, home.

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There’s nothing like discovering a hidden gem and ROKC located in NYC’s Harlem neighborhood is just that.  Wedged between a couple of local storefronts, the building’s exterior is unassuming and unless specifically looking for it, you surely could miss it walking on by. But once inside, talk about ambiance. You feel like you’ve been transported to a cool bar somewhere in Tokyo!  I couldn’t wait to experience this as the latest food adventure with my Cocktails Before Love crew.

ROKC, a Japanese bar and restaurant, is actually a clever little acronym which stands for Ramen, Oyster, Kitchen and Cocktail. The extra special treat is the creative presentation and unique preparation of the excellent cocktails. They not only taste good, but they look amazing as well!

pineapple-ROKC
Photo courtesy of Rokc nyc

Upon arrival, we chose to sit at the bar.  I actually think these are the best seats in the cozy restaurant as we were able to get the perfect view of Shige, the highly skilled mixologist, bringing all these unique drinks to life. He effortlessly prepared all the cocktails during our visit and with such attention to detail, added every house-made ingredient. It was certainly a treat to watch as he whipped up all the special concoctions. Nope, these aren’t your typical, ‘let’s meet for happy hour’ drinks. ROKC does not take reservations and can get crowded as it is a small space, so I suggest going toward the beginning of the week if you would like to secure a table or just get there early and post up at the bar like we did!

Topping Berries Frozen with sparkling wine rokc
Photo by N. Salter

The menu is quite impressive, boasting over 40 sophisticated and fun cocktails ranging from the classics to ROKC signatures, as well as a selection of beers, wines and sake. The menu doesn’t hint at what kind of container your drink will come in. So it was fun to order and then see the unexpected presentation Shige would place in front of you. It ranged from really beautiful antiques and/or elaborate glasses to some amazing looking works of art. My Lychee cocktail, for example – which consisted of lychee fruit, ginger vodka, house lychee juice and lime – was served inside a lightbulb perched on top of a pile of ice in an etched ceramic mug. The Berries frozen drink looked like an ice sculpture on a pedestal and my fellow foodie’s bourbon based drink, the Final Word – mixed with maraschino, Chartreuse and lime came in an ornate, ruby red goblet. Someone next to us had the Tomato Clam that arrived in a huge conch shell in a wooden box, while someone else’s drink was displayed in a bird’s nest within an eggshell! Every drink we sampled was amazing and well-balanced and even traditionally robust, warm liquors like bourbon and cognac which were favored by my Cocktails Before Love crew, had a nice spin and were surprisingly light, refreshing  and full of unexpected blends.

Hijiki-cocktail-rokc
Photo by N. Salter
Drinks-buns-ROKC
Photo by N. Salter

ROKC’s small plates consist of  favorites like its assortment of steamed buns and ramen bowls. The staff was very attentive and helped with our food selections. We started out with the oysters, which were $1.50 during the happy hour special. We ordered all the varieties, from the small and salty Sweet Petites to the larger and meatier Blue Points – they were tasty and fresh served with lemons, cocktail sauce and mignonette sauce. We sampled the pork bun which featured tender and flavorful chunks of pork belly; the shrimp bun which was doused in a spicy mayo and for our ramen, we opted for the Kyoto, a chicken and fish based broth, topped with pork belly, garlic, soft-boiled seasoned egg and scallions, deemed by our server as the most traditional choice. The melding of the spices in the broth was just right without being too heavy. Everything was delicious and enjoyable.

Honestly we could have sat and watched Shige create these killer cocktails and happily eat and drink for hours. You must visit ROKC!  I know I will absolutely return for a seat at the bar and explore more of the menu.

If you want to join in on our next food adventure, be sure to RSVP for an upcoming meet up.

Cheers!

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beer overhead

Because it’s National Beer Lovers Day, we know you want to celebrate the right way. Now, craft beer is becoming a lot easier to find nowadays but there’s something about a place that has an atmosphere that compliments the intricate craft beer it serves. Whether it’s a relaxing patio, a lavish rooftop or sidewalk views, there is something for all occasions and we’ve picked out the best places to enjoy that Double IPA you’ve been looking for on National Beer Lovers Day. 

Covenhoven – Brooklyn

730 Classon Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

We will start in Brooklyn at Covenhoven , a relaxing oasis filled with beer lovers, board games and good times. With 16 taps on hand and a wall length fridge of bottles and cans available for on-the-go or on site consumption, they are sure to have something for everyone. Both draft list and the fridge are carefully curated each week to ensure quality regardless of season. The staff is engaging and you are sure to make new friends here.

Top Hops – LES 

94 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

Heading across the Williamsburg Bridge to LES lies a true hidden gem in Top Hops. The enormous draft list towering with 18 taps including unique information handily sets it apart from the competition. While many breweries offer information on location and alcohol content, very few, if any, will tell you the last time the beer was tapped to gauge freshness, a luxury true craft beer lovers will appreciate. Toss in free delicious bar snacks, knowledgeable staff, educational events and 600+ bottle and cans from around the world and they may just never leave.

beer-bottles
Photo by Thomas Picauly

Milk & Hops 

166 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

On the quiet side of Chelsea you’ll find Milk and Hops, a craft beer bar and bottle shop. What appears to be a coffee shop from afar actually is a pretty neat location to meet up for business or for pleasure. Taps here tend to be a bit more diverse as I’ve seen beer from as far as Florida on tap. There’s somewhat sidewalk seating available and plenty of light to relax and enjoy. 

La Birreria/Sabbia – Manhattan 

200 Fifth Avenue, Roof, New York, NY 10010

A stone’s throw away you’ll find a brewery but not just any brewery, a rooftop brewery. Residing above Eataly in Flatiron, La Birreria welcomes you with energy and smiles. The selection here stretches internationally but particularly you’ll see special Dogfish Head options that you won’t find anywhere else. Heads up, may be harder to find a seat here but it’s all worth it. Arguably one of the best places to grab a beer in the City, La Birreria is a must amongst beer lovers. 

beer overhead

Singlecut – Queens

19-33 37th St, Astoria, NY 11105

Rounding out the tour we head out to Queens. Yes Queens, specifically Astoria. Grab your beer loving buddies and get away from the City for a bit. Here there are 12 taps with outstanding range of craft beers brewed just behind the main wall. This isn’t an onslaught of IPAs and Pale Ales either, there are sours and Belgian style Ales as well. The tasting room is spacious enough to stretch out a bit, again, this isn’t the City. The “trek” is worth it. 

 

Honorable Mentions: 

Five Boroughs Brewing in Sunset Park 

The Wilky in Bedford Stuyvesant 

Gun Hill Tavern – The Bronx 

This post was brought to you by Black x Crafty. Barry Greene is the founder of Black x Crafty, a movement centered around increasing attention to black owned breweries and craft beer consumers. Bridging the gap, one beer at a time. 

Wish You Were Beer Pin

If you’re looking for a way to be unapologetic about your love for beer, this is certainly the way to do it.  .

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