Rich. Poor. Coastal. Land-locked. Glamorous. Industrial. Contemporary. Historical. Orange County packs the full spectrum of California living and we all view it in our own personal way. But any way you look at this stretch from San Clemente to Long Beach, you’ve got to admit one thing – it sure is diverse. So what better place for Ono Yum to hold its sixth annual I Love Poke OC than amidst the sun and salt air of Huntington Beach?
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With the National Surfing Championships going off right across the street at the HB Pier, and another sold out Ono Yum event ready to pop, the buzz easily rivaled last month’s I Love Poke San Diego at the Bali Hai. More music. More sunshine. More ocean breeze. More poke! What’s not to love? The big difference this round was the luck of the guests, who were on the receiving end of six (yes, SIX) returning 1st place Poke Fest champions. Before the gates even opened, the bar was already set higher, and every single chef rose to the challenge.
It’s a bold statement, but it has to be said – the level of poke at this year’s Orange County event was unparalleled. Flavors, consistency, creativity, plating and overall taste were spot on. Not only was there no bad poke, but everything served was top notch, and chefs that may have won with this year’s entries in years past didn’t even place in this event. It was that competitive. It was that close. It was that good.
Of course there was the amazing cooked food, better known as Foodland, that had lines of repeat guests who couldn’t stand trying just one sample. As always, the sweets were in full force with smiling patrons figuring out how to fit in that one last ono bite. These zones are always solid and add balance to provide our guests with the ultimate pupu layout, so these small bites are sure to hit every single taste bud.
But in the end, it is I Love Poke, and that’s why most people attend. Again, the competition was fierce and it’s always difficult to nail down the winners with such a subjective take on judging. However, consistency spoke and the winners were chosen. Not only that, but history was made… and for the first time ever we had a San Diego/Orange County sweep! With all of the incredible chefs, it speaks volumes for Zarlito’s of San Diego to capture the grand prize not once but TWICE in the same year. That’s a true feather in the cap for these chefs, so congratulations on this epic feat. And an extended congratulations goes out to the rest of the winners and all competitors. You made this event the strongest yet. This one was off the charts. This one went to 11.
Zarlitos – Chefs Chris Aure and Big Mike – Spicy Garlic Poke – poke of Yellowfin tuna, sesame oil, soy sauce, minced garlic, chili flakes, roasted black sesame seeds, green onions, chili oil, Sriracha sauce and fried crispy garlic
True World Foods – Chef Maui Canosa – Lilikoi-infused Kiawe Smoked Salmon Poke – poke of sustainable New Zealand salmon (kiawe smoked), fresh organic lilikoi, cucumber, red onions, chives, honey, togarashi and mirin
3rd Place – Tie
Good Choice Sushi – Chef Hiko Hori – Da Kine Poke – poke of Big Eye tuna, green onion, Maui onion, Togarashi, sesame oil, soy sauce, Hawaiian rock salt, Alaea salt, macadamia nuts and chipotle mayo
3rd Place – Tie
Sushi Studio Arts – Chef Vu Nguyen – Salmon Poke – poke of fresh salmon, seaweed salad, wasabi aioli and caviar