Ono Grinds! I Love Musubi’s annual Poke Festival makes a splash in Point Loma once again

Living in San Diego, we are lucky enough to have the resources to enjoy some of the freshest, most sustainable fish in all of the world. We also happen to be home to many different types of authentic oceanic cuisine most other parts of the US don’t get to taste, like Japanese and Hawaiian. Thanks to a little group of island lovers known as I ❤ Musubi, we are able to pay homage to these two cultures with the I Love Poke Festival – which is personally, my faaaaave food festival of the year.

Poke typically consists of cubed ahi sashimi marinated with sea salt, a small amount of soy sauce, inamona (roasted crushed candlenut), sesame oil, seaweed, and chopped chili pepper. Last year was my first go around at the festival, so I was eager to return to the Bali Hai Resort this year for more ahi and mai tai’s. In it’s 4th year running, the food festival and competition celebrated Hawaiian culture and cuisine with live music by Hawaiian born singers Kimie & Irie Love. The food service was broken up into two sections: Pokeland, where 12-15 chefs compete for title of “Best Poke,” and Foodland, a place for attendees to sample Hawaiian and Asian inspired food from local restaurants. Typically Pokeland allows chef’s to create a submission for two categories – traditional and any kine (chef’s choice). This year however, the organizing group decided to simplify the competition and only allow one submission per participating restaurant. Another new rule added to this years comp? Only using sustainable seafood to promote the importance of responsible fishing, a cause near and dear to the hearts of festival founder Nino Camilo (aka Neens) and Chef Rob Ruiz of Harney Sushi.

This year’s participating chefs of Pokeland:

• Team Hapa J’s of Hapa J’s Kitchen Bar Lounge (2011 Winner of Traditional Poke)
• Chef Antonio Friscia of Gaijin Noodle & Sake House (2012’s ‘Any Kine’ defending champion)
• Chef Kurt Metzger of Kitchen 4140 (2011’s ‘Any Kine’ winner)
• Chef Ricardo Heredia of Alchemy
• Chef Gayle Covner of Blueprint Café & In Good Taste Catering
• Chef Christopher Spayde of Blue Wave Bar & Grill
• Chef Anthony Sinsay of Burlap
• Chef Maria Sparks of Cork & Platter
• Home Chef Rob Farrow sponsored by Double Take
• Chef Olivier Bioteau of Farmhouse Café
• Chef Robert Ruiz of Harney Sushi
• Chef Doug Moric of Le Papagayo
• Chef David Bland of Peohe’s
• Chef Jeff Rossman of Terra American Bistro
• Chef Keoni Simmons of The Field Irish Pub
• Chef Jannine Williams of Whole Foods

Participating restaurants of Foodland:

• Casa de Juice
• Zarlitos Family Restaurant
• Hawaii’s Island Eatery
• Ho’onani Cakes
• Wahine Kai Shave Ice
• Cups Organic
• L&L El Cajon
• Chamorro Grill
• Chris’ Onolicious Grinds
• Guahan Grill
• Hodad’s
• Barrio Star
• Hawaiian Springs Water
• Wild Thyme Company

The event was super laid back, featuring beer from local celebrities Saint Archer, and a star studded panels of judges including professional surfer Joel Tudor, professional skateboarder Christian Hosoi, and Surfing Magazine Editor Chris Cote, to name a few. The performances were top notch, and the food was amazing as usual. My top choice from Pokeland was hand’s down the delicious umami poke created by Chef Robert Ruiz of Harney Sushi. Honorable mention goes out to Chef Sinsay at Burlap for a fine (and the only) traditional take on ahi poke, and Chef Friscia of Gaijin Noodle & Sake House for his tasty dish that had more species of fish in it than most large bodies of water. But don’t let the competition fool you! Foodland was choc full of winning dishes too. Count on Hodad’s beef sliders to be the perfect end to an otherwise fishy meal – YUM!!

Bali Hai

San Diego Bay

Neens with the folks of Saint Archer

Festival founder Neens with the folks of Saint Archer

poke yum yum


Chef's Antonio Friscia & Michelle Lux representing Gaijin

Chef’s Antonio Friscia & Michelle Lux representing Gaijin

Gaijin's Yellowtail/Scallop/Octopus Poke

Gaijin’s Yellowtail/Scallop/Octopus Poke

Harney Sushi's Not-so-Secret Recipe

Harney Sushi’s Not-so-Secret Recipe

Hapa J's bomb salmon furikake poke

Hapa J’s bomb salmon furikake poke

Team Burlap!

Team Burlap w/ Brian Malarkey

Mr. Fox

Burlap's traditional take on ahi poke

Burlap’s traditional take on ahi poke



Hodad’s ono sliders

Lucien Debock Conner of Gaijin with his good luck charm

Lucien Debock Conner of Gaijin with his good luck charm

Not a bad place to be!

Not a bad place to be!


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