Poke Every Which Way in Playa Vista

Top Chef's Brooke Williamson brings Hawaii to LA's Silicon Beach to feed the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Google

Da Kikokiko is a welcome addition to L.A.'s poke craze.
Da Kikokiko is a welcome addition to L.A.’s poke craze.

If you’re going to live, work or hang out in a planned community, you could do a lot worse than L.A.’s Playa Vista.

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For those who care about technology, the Westside development is turning into the nerve center of Silicon Beach. Facebook (META), Electronic Arts, YouTube, IMAX, Fox Interactive Media, numerous digital agencies and whatever Yahoo is now are here. But the biggest news, of course, is that Google (GOOGL) has purchased 12 acres of Playa Vista land for its new campus. One can only imagine the drone food delivery and smart buses that could be here in the not-so-distant future.

For those who have a family, the on-site security, school, playgrounds, concerts and walkability of Playa Vista are ultra-appealing. This is a place where you can let your children stroll alone safely, an area where they’ll actually want to play outside much of the day.

And with all these innovative businesses and an influx of residents, Playa Vista has gotten new amenities, of course, including a so-on-trend Whole Foods with a bar that serves cocktails and poke, and a seafood counter that sells poke, and a ramen and poke cart.

The best poke you’ll find in the neighborhood, though, is at Top Chef runner-up Brooke Williamson’s new Da Kikokiko, a bright, cheery, colorful Hawaiian-inspired wonderland that opened on October 14. It’s part of the popular restaurant collection at Runway Playa Vista, a dining/shopping/entertainment complex that buzzes day and night and also includes the Whole Foods, soup-dumpling slinger ROC, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Baja-inspired Sol Cocina, plant-based and modern-cafeteria cuisine, a forthcoming 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, yupster-friendly fitness studios, boutique clothing stores, a CVS and a movie theater.

It’s pretty fantastic that an L.A. beach day can mean stopping for a plate of pork belly and bits after going for a dip.

Runway is built to service the growing neighborhood around it, but Williamson and husband/business partner Nick Roberts could have a fast-casual destination restaurant on their hands with smartly constructed signature poke bowls like hamachi, lilikoi ponzu, pickled ginger, cucumber, scallion, Maui onion, cilantro, radish sprouts, toasted garlic and yuzu tobiko. We recommend trying this over a grain blend with quinoa and brown rice. You can also build your own bowl with options including yellowfin tuna, lomi-lomi salmon, octopus and Japanese eggplant, and more than 30 toppings like avocado, kimchi, fresh grated wasabi, shaved serrano pepper and jellyfish salad.

There’s also musubi including the requisite spam along with yuzu kosho salmon, sesame miso zucchini and teriyaki chicken. Turns out you can do a lot cooking with just a panini press if you get creative.

For something sweet, there’s shaved iced featuring flavors (like matcha, coconut and pineapple) that have little in common with the artificial, bizarrely colored options you might have encountered elsewhere. Order a scoop of ice cream and they’ll bury it at the bottom of your shaved ice as motivation to finish your entire dessert.

Williamson and Roberts also have a restaurant empire in neighboring Playa Del Rey, where they operate gastropub The Tripel and the multiple-concepts-under-one-roof Playa Provisions. Playa Provisions is a breakfast and sandwich shop, an ice-cream counter, a destination seafood restaurant and a back-room whisky bar (inspired by speakeasy-style drinking dens like New York’s PDT) all at one address. It’s a fun place where, as I’ve noted before, you can take your family during the day and hide from your kids at night.

Williamson isn’t the only star chef, uh, shoring up Playa Del Rey’s dining scene. Perry Cheung, a winner of the Esquire Network’s Knife Fight, has his ASAP Phorage bahn mi and pho counter tucked in the back of Gordon’s Market. It’s pretty fantastic that an L.A. beach day can mean stopping here for a plate of pork belly and bits after going for a dip. By the way, when we visited ASAP Phorage recently, the special of the day was poke.

Poke Every Which Way in Playa Vista