Poke: poh-KAY, rhymes with okay. 1. A classic Hawaiian dish of raw tuna cubes marinated in a secret sauce and served over warm fluffy rice. 2. A Hawaiian word meaning “to cut into pieces.” 3. My latest obsession at King Sushi in Jackson.
I’ve just gotten back from Maui where I made it my business to try every rendition of poke on the island. Since I’ve discovered the poke at King Sushi, I can’t get enough of the Captain’s version of this perfect bowl of fish and rice. How can my local sushi joint in Wyoming have better poke than Hawaii? And who is the Captain? Please, let me explain.
King Sushi is THE place for sushi where I live: The downtown log cabin restaurant is packed nightly with locals getting their sushi fix. Dinner at King Sushi is a treat, and someday I’ll tell you about all the great dishes that come out of the tiny kitchen: the happy hour specials, the hand rolls, the ramen, the sashimi, the uni shooters. And why my brother eats there at least 3 times a week.
But first, let’s talk about the poke. I first had the Captain’s poke at a farmers market in Jackson Hole last summer. The Captain, aka Jacques Pillons, was slicing me a piece of ono from a huge filet as he was getting pelted by a midsummer hailstorm. Welcome to Wyoming! Having just moved here from Hawaii, he laughed about being a fish out of water, as he proceeded to hand me a piece of sweet, buttery, fish that smelled of the ocean. Next I tried the poke, his secret recipe for seasoned raw tuna, and I was hooked.
Fast forward one year, and now the Captain supplies fish to all the best restaurants in Jackson Hole, including King Sushi.
The Captain’s story goes like this: Boy grows up in Hawaii, living among the fishes. Wyoming girl moves to Hawaii to attend college. Hawaii boy meets Wyoming girl and soon they are back in Jackson Hole, married and raising a small baby. Luckily for those of us who LOVE high quality fresh fish, this boy misses the fish from home so much he decides to start a business importing fish to Jackson.
The Captain launches Oceans to You by having his buddies back in Hawaii seek out the best, in season, sustainable fish available — and by seek out I mean they forage with hand and spear in all their secret spots. The fish gets put on ice and jetted overnight to Jackson, and into the hands of the chefs. Which is where Jason King comes in.
When the tiny, historic log cabin on King Street became vacant (RIP Shades Cafe), it must have been meant to be for Jason King (no relation to the street) and his partner Kaylan Fullerton. The beloved cabin is even cozier than it ever was because Kaylan and her staff greet everyone at the door— they are some of the friendliest people in town. Jason stays focused behind the sushi bar cranking out one beautiful creation after another. Honestly, when I go in for dinner, I can never decide what to order. I just ask to be brought whatever Jason is making and it’s always perfect.
I love ordering the Ahi Tuna Salad — a huge bowl of greens topped with seared ahi in a citrusy vinaigrette. But I usually get the poke. Now that our summer deck dining season is in full swing, I love going in with friends for a late lunch when King Sushi opens at 4:30. I do worry that once word of the Captain’s incredible poke gets out, there will be lines snaking around the corner to get it. The Captain assures me there will be enough poke for everyone. Bringing poke to the people is his business.
King Sushi (75 S King Street, Jackson, WY // 307.264.1630)