Blaise and DJ Aki of The Sushi Room on Hawaiian Poke and Liquid Smoke
This week, we're chatting with Blaise and DJ Aki of The Sushi Room in Chandler. The father-son team has been working together since as long as 18-year-old DJ Aki was old enough to help his dad with his catering business. On Monday, we got the scoop on how this Hawaiian family ended up in the middle of the desert and, today, we find out the secret to making the best Hawaiian poke salad in the state. If you missed part one, you can read it here.
Lauren Saria Blaise Aki of The Sushi Room
Since coming to the Valley, Blaise worked at a few sushi places (including Blue Wasabi) before landing a job at The Sushi Room in February. Blaise says that though it's a small operation (particularly when you consider he once was a regional chef for Hilton), he likes how much creative freedom he gets with the menu. And it's true. You can tell with just a glance at the specials menu that he's put his personal touch on the restaurant's offerings. The best example would have to be his Hawaiian poke.
"I do the best poke in Arizona," Aki says. "A lot of what other people are missing is Hawaii salt."
Lauren Saria This is the best poke in the state, according to Blaise Aki.
Just like that he's gone, only to return with a huge white tub. He pops the lid, heaves out a burlap sack, opens it, and says, "Here, taste that."
Inside are coarse flakes of sea salt from the salt flats in ʻEleʻEle on the island of Kaua'i. The little crystals play a prominent role in Aki's poke. Or at least in the one version we tried -- he does dozens of varieties. For those unfamiliar with the dish, poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish of cubed sashimi marinated and mixed with sea salt and different types of limu (seaweed). Other common elements these days include sesame seed oil, soy sauce, onions, and chiles or chile flakes. Now that's Aki's got the salt, he's working on sourcing different types of seaweeds from the Big Island.