Food review: JJ Poke in Oakland

Hidden in a little nook right off Forbes Ave. sits JJ Poke Bowl & Taiwanese Bubble Tea. Located at 110 Atwood St., this family-owned eatery is the perfect location for a quick stop to pick up a meal, authentic bubble tea, or even miscellaneous Asian snacks.

Upon entering the brightly lit store, you are immediately greeted by lively music, colorfully decorated walls, and Covid-19 preventative measures. Although JJ Poke Bowl & Taiwanese Bubble Tea is currently only open for take-out or delivery through a third-party source, the staff have taken precautions to prioritize their customers’ health.

“We don’t have anyone coming in [to eat],” manager Jackson Chen said. “But we still sanitize in between and then get back to work. So everything is safe, and we require everyone to wear masks when they come in.”

Although there are COVID-19 induced modifications to the interior design, JJ Poke still maintains its bright and colorful décor. It still has its Post-it covered wall, displaying an abundance of compliments from satisfied customers, animated menus plastered to surfaces, and shelves and fridges filled with classic Asian snacks.

Just having celebrated its one year anniversary, JJ Poke Bowl & Taiwanese Bubble Tea acknowledges that poke, which is a dish native to Hawaii featuring diced raw fish, is relatively new to the area.

“It's a little different to Oakland, and Pittsburgh in general, because not many places have what we have,” Chen said.

Understanding that not everyone eats raw fish, the owners also prepare cooked protein options—including tofu and chicken— as possible toppings to their poke bowls. They also serve flavorful bento boxes with an array of proteins.

The owners of JJ Poke were inspired to open their own store after years in the restaurant industry and perfecting all of the necessary sushi skills.

“We are all working for ourselves, and our families,” Chen said. “We didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. We wanted to do our own thing.”

Although this restaurant has only been open for a short and challenging period of time, they have been dedicated to making, “good food, high-quality healthy food, “ Chen said.

Here are some highlights from my recent visit to JJ Poke Bowl & Taiwanese Bubble Tea.

Bountiful Bowls:

Build Your Own Bowl ($8.95, $10.95, $12.95): The price of the poke bowl is dependent on the number of scoops of protein, ranging from one to three. The fresh fish is brought in from a Japanese supplier in Ohio. While the fish quality is mediocre, if mixed with the right sauce and toppings, you can build a delicious bowl to your liking.

If you are new to the poke scene, JJ Poke Bowl & Taiwanese Bubble Tea also has some signature bowls where they have carefully crafted a meal based on trial and error, according to Chen.

Chicken Bento Box ($10.95): This dish included teriyaki chicken, an array of vegetables, and some sort of mystery curry. This bowl’s flavors were overpowering each other, with an underlying taste of salt. The chicken was cooked well, but the seasoning was underwhelming and flavoring was subpar.

If you visit, I would recommend sticking to the poke bar and avoiding the chicken bento box.

Bodacious Bubble Tea:

Original Taiwanese Bubble Tea ($3.95, $4.95): This drink is very milky and sweet and has all the components of a classic Taiwanese bubble tea. The tea and tapioca are imported from Taiwan, and the tapioca balls themselves had the perfect consistency.