Pololi was founded by former investment banker turned “chef-preneur” Steph Kudus, who realized there was a gap in the market for a poké joint after bringing her own poké bowls to work, where she became on the receiving end of serious food envy from her colleagues. After deciding that she wanted to do something more rewarding with her career, she quit her job and set up a poké takeout shack on Graham Street, Central in 2014.
Since then, Pololi has opened an outlet in Singapore, and more takeout branches in Hong Kong serving up customized poké bowls and Hawaiian BBQ. But the only way you could enjoy any of these meals here in town was by ordering it as takeout. That, or by throwing a luau big enough to warrant their catering services. Good news, though: That’s no longer the case.
It was earlier this month, as Coconuts HK editors refueled with one of Pololi’s chicken bowls at the Hong Kong Rum Fest, when we first got the heads up that Kudus would be opening Pololi’s new global flagship — part restaurant, part bar — in Causeway Bay’s Fashion Walk.
The spot was designed by Aaron Chau and Jacqueline Wan from Twenty’o Eight Designs. The 1,200 sq ft space transforms via a number of panels that come down from the ceiling and cover the kitchen, and walls that can be unlatched to cover the shopfront windows.
It’s a nice touch and a clever way of making the most of a small space, but the constant moving of panels can feel a bit fussy at times, even if the transformation is only going to happen when customers aren’t around.
That said, it’s a clean and contemporary design, the constant changing panels does change the atmosphere from bright and open to more intimate and cozy (once the heavy tables are set aside to make room for a wall to unfold), and the assortment of ukeleles on display make an ideal background for your social media needs — but yes, we did accidentally knock over a couple of ukeleles on the table while taking a quick look around.
So, on to the food. We started with some avocado fries, slices of avocado fried in a really light batter and topped with a Thai sweet chili sauce. Nicely fried, not too greasy, and a perfect side dish to have with either a fresh coconut or a P.O.G, a refreshing fruit juice blending passionfruit, orange, and guava, and served in a plastic pineapple-shaped drinking vessel.
The star of the show here, obviously, is poké: Juicy cuts of fresh, uncooked salmon and tuna, tossed in light sauces and topped with fresh seasonings such as scallions, cucumber, and red onions.
The poké bowls come in respectable portion sizes — unlike some other shops that make it as if the poké itself is an afterthought. According to Kudus, Pololi is aware of such poké blasphemers, and make it a point not to add too much “filler” like salad and rice to theirs.
We also got a taster of what you can expect from a Hawaiian BBQ with some chicken katsu, garlic shrimp, sticky icky ribs, and rice and mac salad.
Crowd favorites seemed to be the chicken katsu and sticky icky ribs, which we liked, though we found the latter to be on the dry side. The garlic shrimp, juicy and with a light garlic sauce, was a solid dish, and a nice counterbalance against those and chicken bites and (dry) ribs.
It’s hearty and fun food, but definitely made for those who like their food salty — it left us wanting for more juice, or a fruity cocktail…
…which they do have! At night, Pololi transforms from a poké kitchen to a bar serving up fruit-flavored cocktails. Aha, so there is a reason for all those shape-shifting panels.
Kudus said she learned how to make cocktails from the bartenders at one of our favorite bars in town, The Pontiac.
After weeks of standing behind the bar shaking cocktails, Pololi created the Hot Nail, made up of Plantation 3 Star rum, homemade ginger extract, lemon juice, simple syrup and Averna, served with a slice of orange peel and an umbrella. It’s a refreshing and sweet drink, with just the right amount of sourness and sharpness from the lemon juice. Perfect accompaniment to a Hawaiian BBQ, really. The Pontiac would be proud.
If cocktails aren’t your thing, then you can always have a beer on tap.
The newly-opened flagship will be selling food at a lower “opening” price at the start and will then raise those prices once its operations are on firmer footing. Right now, for a bowl of poké or a BBQ platter, you’re looking at somewhere within the range of HK$100 and upwards.
They also do platters for groups of three to four people (HK$888 at opening, and HK$990 thereafter).
The opening price for a bowl of poké or a BBQ platter and drink combo, is HK$108 to HK$138 at opening, but HK$120 to HK$170 thereafter. Snacks are between HK$38 to HK$88 at opening and HK$50 to HK$120 thereafter.
For drinks, it’s HK$38 to HK$58 for non-alcoholic drinks, and HK$78 to HK$88 for beer and cocktails, respectively (of which there is currently a buy-one-get-one-free special).
Like the platters, they also do punch bowls for three to four people, the costs of which ranges from HK$348 to HK$688.
Overall, Pololi’s new Hong Kong shop is a nice cozy space, especially ideal for a small group dining together — friends taking a break during or post-shopping, colleagues on a lunch, or for those looking for a healthy pre-gym meal.
Pololi Hong Kong is at Shop C, G/F, 58-64 Paterson Street
Food Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay
+852 2755 8099
MTR: Causeway Bay, approx. 5 minute walk