Restaurant review: Manoa Poke Shop

Manoa Poke Shop brings the nationwide poke craze to New England. While Boston is known for hearty cooked seafood such as clam chowder, raw options are limited to oysters and clams. Poke’s closest cousin is crudo — not as unadorned as sashimi but not as dressed as ceviche either. It originated as a salad of fish scraps by Hawaiian fishermen seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and scallions.

An ahi shoyu or tuna poke bowl with pickled onions on brown rice at Manoa Poke Shop. (Image courtesy of Ling-Mei Wong.)

Manoa sources the freshest tuna, salmon and shellfish from local fishermen, utilizing New England’s bounty. Much of Boston’s sashimi is caught along the coast, shipped to Japan to be broken down and then distributed globally, said Jem Wilner, marketing and lead specialist for Manoa. To highlight local variety, the kelaguen bowl ($11.95) features the catch of the day in citrus marinade, with onion and “kaboom legumes” of spicy roast chickpeas.

Owner Josiah Bonsey and his brother Sam grew up in Manoa, Hawaii, then moved to Cambridge for high school. Their island love is reflected in the Somerville shop’s ever-present pineapples and a bright floral mural by Connie Fu. A pineapple juice-hibiscus tea drink ($2.95) uses actual fruit for tropical flavor.

The ahi shoyu ($11.95) with brown or white rice features tuna poke in sesame-soy marinade, pickled onion, scallions and macadamia. Additional shoyu and furikake (dry Japanese seasoning) is available on the side. Once you mix up everything in the bowl, the plentiful tuna stands out in every bite. The tuna poke was healthy, satisfying and utterly delicious.

Manoa Poke Shop’s kalua pig, pork shoulder slow-cooked for 48 hours on rice. (Image courtesy of Manoa Poke Shop.) 

Other raw poke options include salmon shoyu ($11.95) and kilauea or spicy tuna ($11.95). Sweet chili shrimp ($11.95) uses poached salmon and roast pineapple. For vegetarians, the Soy Boy features braised tofu in teriyaki marinade, made without fish sauce for vegans.

To beat the winter chill, Manoa offers kalua pig ($11.95), pork shoulder slow-cooked for 48 hours on rice or a Portuguese sweet roll.

Manoa Poke Shop’s chili rice bowl. (Image courtesy of Manoa Poke Shop.)

Head chef Armando brings the flavors of his native Guam to the chili rice bowl ($5.95), using ground beef, chorizo, linguica and his top secret spice blend.

Manoa Poke Shop’s fried chicken on rice. (Image courtesy of Manoa Poke Shop.)

Mochiko-battered chicken thighs are used for the fried chicken ($11.95), served with rice or Portuguese sweet rolls from Winter Hill Bakery.

The location opened on Jan. 7, after a delay due to heating issues. Manoa Poke Shop offers an authentic taste of Hawaii right in the neighborhood.


This was an arranged tasting, so Sampan’s experiences may be more pleasant than the norm.


Manoa Poke Shop

300 Beacon Street

Somerville, MA 02143

(617) 945-1042

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This post is also available in: Chinese

About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England

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