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Flavor Moments: Ohana Poke Company

In this Flavor Moments, Ken Siebert and I discover flavors of ocean and paradise as we go to Westpark Promenade in midtown Billings to the The Ohana Poke Company where we grab a hearty bowl of rice and ahi tuna. We meet up with owner Tyrell Cromwell, who opened this Hawaiian themed eatery about six months ago. First, Cromwell explains what poke is. 

"Poke in Hawaiian just means cubed or chopped and traditionally in Hawaii its obvious raw ahi tuna," Cromwell said. 

What does Ohana mean?

According to Cromwell, "Ohana simply means family and in the Hawaiian culture it’s a little more encompassing, a little bit more than just your immediate family. It could mean neighbors or even as large as overall humanity." 

The spirit of ohana brought Cromwell back to Billings, back to family. Throughout this bright space the color theme is aqua blue. The lion logo is aqua blue. Decorations are blue. But the most important are the aqua blue arrows that will navigate you through the menu to end up with a bowl brimming with rice, vegetables, protein and sauce. Cromwell’s menu has something for everyone.

"It was important to me that I had something that was inclusive of everybody. I love our raw ahi or our Hawaiian poke but you know kids, families, it’s hard. Also in Montana meat and potatoes country," Cromwell said. 

Those proteins are served on a base of white or brown rice and/or spinach.

"If you look at our menu its pretty simple, you just follow the arrows. Just start with pick a size and pick your base. We try to keep it pretty simple as far as that is concerned. You can have as many mixins as you want. I always tell people the more the better and things where other people would skip corners, we try to just do as fresh as possible," Cromwell said. 

What does fresh mean to the Ohana Poke Company?

"I source it from a fishing company out of Honolulu so my money it’s the best you’re going to get in Montana. I have an exclusive with them," Cromwell said. 

Then for the Montana beef lovers, there’s the Big Sky Poke.

"It’s kind of a play in Montana so it’s a USDA choice, New York strip is what I use. Our Winged Poke is chicken, a marinated chicken breast. Our Alaskan Poke which is our salmon, and we can do that cooked or raw. And our Hokie Poke which is just a fun play for our tofu," Cromwell said. 

On top of the fish or meat, you choose your sauce and toppings. For me, I seek out the side seaweed salad bringing nostalgia of my childhood. It’s made with black hijiki seaweed, sesame seeds, and lotus root flavored with sesame oil and soy. 

"When they slice [lotus root] really thin and you look at the cross section of it, it kind of looks like a wagon wheel. It’s just a circular root with some holes in it, and it doesn’t really have a really strong flavor," Cromwell said. 

It adds texture and crunch to the salad. Here are our impressions of the Poke bowl we tasted.

Ken Siebert: I like the combination of the brown rice and that seaweed salad. It pairs very well together. The brown rice is hot, all the other ingredients are cold so there’s some great temperature variation that’s going on there.

Stella Fong: And how is my ahi? It is firm. It is fresh. It is clean and this is the way fish is supposed to taste. So the next time you crave flavors of the ocean, head to The Ohana Poke Company. This is Flavor Moments and I’m Stella Fong.

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.