Paina Cafe brings Las Vegas the poke bowl it claims it invented

Updated May 20, 2017 - 6:32 pm

The influx of Hawaiian immigrants that’s given the valley ninth-island status is perhaps most apparent in the restaurant industry. It started with the arrival of “Hawaiian barbecues,” which are great if you like Spam musubi and plate lunches with copious carbs. More recently, a flurry of poke restaurants, with island import Paina Cafe (three locations near Honolulu, where it claims it invented the poke bowl) chief among them.

Poke, in the Hawaiian context, is a raw-fish assemblage resembling a salad over a bed of rice to make it a meal. Just as France’s vaunted sauces were created initially to compensate for inferior meats, poke began as a way for fishermen to use their trimmings. Of course, most poke today gets the same attention as the best sushi with many flavors in common, as in the wasabi masago ahi poke or the shoyu ginger salmon poke at Paina Cafe. And contrasting textures and flavors elevate poke well beyond fish trimmings.

There are lots of design-your-own options, with six to eight seafood and tofu choices and 15 toppings, but even some of the prescribed combos allow you to select whatever fish you like (and all can be ordered with white or brown rice). Spicy tuna paired well with the smaller Poke Crunch Bowl ($9.95/$11.25), which was the size of a soup bowl. The brown rice came topped with well-trimmed fish with a middlin’ amount of fire that was tamed but not obliterated by the teriyaki glaze. Shredded nori brought more of a hint of the sea than the neutrally flavored tuna, and a surfeit of tempura flakes provided crunch in every bite, offsetting the fish’s tender lushness.

small pic description goes here

ADD CAPTION/CREDIT

While purist poke involves only raw fish, Paina Cafe also offers Kalua pig and cooked beef, the latter in its Hawaiian beef bowl ($9.25). The white rice and with tender strips of soy-marinated meat came topped with sliced scallions and crispy garlic chips, both providing crunch and jolts of flavor playing off the mellower beef. On the side: a cup of “potato salad” that actually was a potato-pasta hybrid; Hawaiians love a good macaroni salad.

small pic description goes here

Kimura ahi katsu bento plate at Paina Cafe. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Asian slaw ($6.95) was the weakest link. It had decent enough dressing and almonds but far less cabbage than romaine, resulting in something more akin to a spicy tuna Asian salad sans spicy tuna. Not enough cabbage, not enough crunch.

And what would a Hawaiian restaurant be without Hawaiian pastries? There are lots to choose from, with two cases filled with the likes of haupia (coconut-milk) bars and ube (purple yam) puffs.

small pic description goes here

Aloha tart pack at Paina Cafe. Benjamin Hager Las Vegas Review-Journal

Paina means “gathering,” the website says, and a crowd was indeed gathering during the early dinner hour. With its wooden tables and wainscoting, copious charging spots, Hawaiian-themed signage and island/reggae music, the place has all the markings of a millennial magnet.

small pic description goes here

But if you’re not a millennial, don’t let that stop you. Getting a poke bowl at Paina Cafe is a great way to take part, and a lot easier (not to mention faster and cheaper) than going to the islands.

Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Five must-see bands at Psycho Las Vegas 2018
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch
Zuma's Ice Cube Carving Is Satisfying To Watch (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores
Therapy In Downtown Las Vegas Serves Cast Iron S'mores. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes
New Brunch Spot The Stove Makes Unicorn Hot Chocolate And Bananas Foster Pancakes. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup
The Octopus On The Las Vegas Strip Predicted The Winner Of The World Cup. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-journal)
TLC by the Numbers
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
How to feel like a kid again in Las Vegas
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall
People Lined Up For Over 5 Hours For Build-a-bear's "Pay Your Age" Promotion At Galleria Mall. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas
Over 40,000 People Attend The 4th Of July Parade In Summerlin In Las Vegas. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Pawn Stars' Richard Harrison honored at memorial service
A memorial service was conducted for Richard "Old Man" Harrison at Palm Mortuary in Las Vegas on Sunday, July 1, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
5 must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
Five must-see bands at Warped Tour 2018
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table.
This Banana Split In Las Vegas Is Made With Fire And Liquid Nitrogen Right At Your Table. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster
Pixar Pier At Disneyland Is Open With New Food And A New Roller Coaster (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland
Here's What It's Like To Ride The New Incredicoaster At Disneyland (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like