Debate: Fresh Tuna vs. Frozen Carbon Monoxide Treated Tuna


From day one we made an explicit decision to only use fresh fish and for good reason - quality and safety. Frankly, we started Coast because we couldn’t find poke that reminded us of what we’ve had in Hawaii. We take great pride in the fact that we use the cleanest sashimi grade fish. It’s delivered to us daily, which allows us to inspect and identify exactly how fresh our fish shipments are by checking the color, clarity, scent, texture and taste.

On June 1st, the FDA posted information about their investigation into the findings of Hepatitis A linked to frozen carbon monoxide (CO) treated tuna. To summarize, in May there were two instances of frozen CO treated fish recalls. On May 18th, Hilo Fish Company recalled product from CA, TX and OK. Luckily, there haven’t been any reports of illness. COAST has not been affected by this recall. We do not use frozen CO treated tuna in any of our stores.

To be clear, Hepatitis A doesn’t naturally occur in tuna. This investigation is happening because of human error and it underscores the importance of sourcing from trustworthy suppliers who handle and process their seafood with strict attention to food safety. But this issue brings to light the importance of a larger issue: fresh vs. CO treated frozen fish. It’s similar to the organic vs. conventional debate, the difference being that consumer awareness of this process is non-existent. So let’s dive in...

The Carbon Monoxide Controversy

A large majority of the frozen tuna cubes imported into the US have been treated with carbon monoxide (CO) which is a color preservative. This process, also known as “gassing”, can turn “chocolate fish” (fish that has naturally turned brown as it oxidizes) back to a dark pink color, to make it look fresh. Once gassed, the fish retains this color for a very long time, even after defrosting. However, gassing fish does not preserve the flavors, textures nor the integrity of the fish.

Frozen gassed cubed tuna is being explicitly produced for use in poke shops. No butchering = reduced labor costs - just defrost and go. It comes as no surprise that so many poke places are using this product. Better margins, yes. But at what cost?

The FDA generally regards this process as safe. Interestingly a number of countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore and countries in the EU) have banned gassed products. New York Times reporter Julia Moskin, dove into this issue with a balanced story Tuna’s Red Glare, It Could Be Carbon Monoxide. Even though her story was published years ago, the theme of supply and demand for visually appealing products is more relevant than ever.

Critics worry that this process can easily mask spoiled fish, by removing visual queues. They argue that without the right disclosures, altering the appearance of the fish so that it looks fresh is deceiving the customer. Advocates argue that gassing and freezing the fish is a safer for transportation and distribution, can be used when thawed - thus reducing waste, all while retaining a fresh appearance.

For our guests, the bottom line is this: we are committed to the highest quality. Sure our poke may be slightly more expensive than other poke bowl concepts, but the quality of fish in your bowl parallels that of three orders from a discriminating sushi bar. Easily $15-$20 in the Bay Area. We can taste the difference and we know that many of our guests can too. More important, all of our guests can rest assured that we’re vetting our sources carefully and we’d never compromise on the quality of our fish.

Never wait in line again! Introducing online ordering

We've heard the feedback. We know the lines can be long at times and that sometimes we run out of your favorite poke, esp if you try to avoid the lines and come down for a late lunch past 1:30 or 2pm. But we've got your back. We're introducing online ordering - which should alleviate both problems!

Starting Wednesday March 22, you'll be able to place pickup orders (under $100) through our website, and find your bowl waiting for you at our One Market Plaza store. Just click on the online orders link in the header of our home page to open the ordering menu.

For those who go COASTAL at least once a week (we love you!) we'll soon have an iOS and Android app out in a few weeks. The app will remember your preferences and all. Sweet!

To our loyal customers in San Jose, we plan to introduce this feature in our San Pedro Square store in the coming weeks. We're almost there!

And for those of you who have asked about corporate catering, it's definitely on our radar! Our product is delicate (hello, raw fish) and we want to make sure we get it right! 

Thanks for all your support and enthusiasm.

New Year. New Beginning.

Ahh the New Year. A time for resolutions and the promise of change. We like to embrace these moments and really go for it, so our team worked tirelessly through the holidays to pull off what can only be described as a New Year's miracle. 

We are proud to announce that on Thursday 1/5 we'll be opening the first of two San Francisco locations. We're setting down roots in the newly renovated One Market Plaza - PLATES Food Hall. Store hours will be M-F (11 am - 3 pm). We are on the ground floor near the Stuart Street entrance. With tons of indoor seating, this is a great place for groups. 

 Our fabulous new FiDi location, designed by Brent Kanbayashi, Kanbayashi Design (SF) Artwork by the legendary Oakland street artist Vogue (TDK)

Our fabulous new FiDi location, designed by Brent Kanbayashi, Kanbayashi Design (SF)
Artwork by the legendary Oakland street artist Vogue (TDK)

Carefully cubed. Respectfully adventurous. 

Our first delivery of responsibly sourced sashimi grade fish will arrive early Thursday morning. All of our fish is cubed by hand, not by machine. We believe you can taste the difference once you've had sashimi grade fish, and you shouldn't have to settle for less.  You'll never find carbon monoxide treated frozen fish in your Coast poke bowl.

For those of you who rarely venture down where the sidewalk ends, we plan to open a second FiDi location at 30 Battery St (near Market) Stay tuned for more on that in the coming weeks!

Here's to a new year and (fingers crossed) your new lunch obsession. 

Feeding you like family, 

The Coast Poke Counter crew




Gratitude and Grub

Hard to believe that it's been three months since we served our first bowl of poke at our San Pedro Square location. We've enjoyed getting to know all of our lunch buds (aka regulars).  As the day turns to night, the laid back community vibe during the evenings and weekends makes it feel like we're all hanging out a neighborhood block party. Heeeey!

We're grateful for your support and your feedback. You've shared some great suggestions with us and we've been listening! 

Here are a few new things we're introducing this week. 

 1. Easier to read menu board. 

2. Four new sides. Pick four of our seven sides for your bowl: New items include: inari, housemade wonton chips, edamame guac, and the ever popular seaweed salad. 

3. Island flare. Three new poke inspired snacks that pair perfectly with good friends and good times: Poke Bomb, Poke Crunch and the Pokestada.

Thanks for your patronage and support San Jose! We're just getting warmed up and hope to impress you with more surprises in 2017.

 We're droppin' Poke Bombs on ya! Sweet and spicy, these are our newest addiction.

We're droppin' Poke Bombs on ya! Sweet and spicy, these are our newest addiction.

 Behold the Pokestada!  The ultimate fusion dish. 

Behold the Pokestada! The ultimate fusion dish. 

 Poke Crunch with our Spicy Tuna Tartare, Edamame Guac and housemade wonton chips. 

Poke Crunch with our Spicy Tuna Tartare, Edamame Guac and housemade wonton chips. 


 Mini bowls made a big impression! 

Mini bowls made a big impression! 

In the world of sport, there are a select few who have an intimate relationship with the ocean. The Titans are a rare breed of men and women, who eagerly await the perfect, ferocious, mountainous swell, that only big wave surfers would dream of, let alone paddle out to. Every winter they gather at Maverick's seeking the rush of the ride and a spiritual affirmation, as mountains of water thunder down all around them. 

 Big wave surfer Kealii Mamala with our island girl and Poke Master, Kelly Zubal. He had us at "Poke was awesome." 

Big wave surfer Kealii Mamala with our island girl and Poke Master, Kelly Zubal. He had us at "Poke was awesome." 

COAST was proud to be a small part of their Opening Ceremony in Half Moon Bay this year to celebrate the upcoming competition. And yes, we had a moment when we met Maverick's living legend Jeff Clarke, and Hawaiian surfer Kealii Malala -- who might have used the word "awesome" to describe our poke. Just sayin'...

Now in its 17th year, the Titans of Mavericks surf contest continues to draw the best competitors from all corners of the world. We were there when they announced that they were adding a women's heat for the first time. We're excited to watch our sisters take part in this event. To everyone competing, good luck and be safe. 

A Labor of Love

Serious poke fans, fish lovers and foodies,

We are proud to share that Coast Poke Counter will officially open for business on Labor Day, Monday 9/5.

The first chapter of our story begins in downtown San Jose, where we've carved out a small zen space for ourselves in the San Pedro Square Market

As we spend the next few days readying our staff for our official debut, we thought we'd share a little insight into our tag line: “CAREFULLY CUBED. RESPECTFULLY ADVENTUROUS.”

CAREFULLY CUBED. Our Coast family has deep roots in the seafood industry and we know that above all else, the fish makes the dish. There is a craft in selecting and cubing (cutting) the fish that only comes with training and practice. We only use the freshest, responsibly sourced sushi grade fish and we're cubing every bite with care.

RESPECTFULLY ADVENTUROUS. We are committed to honoring traditional poke recipes. If you've had poke in Hawaii, you know that it's prepared fresh daily, typically sold by weight, and ready-to-eat out of a to-go container (think Nico's or Tanioka's). Along the way, we'll present a new twist on the dish featuring locally sourced ingredients from our own Poke Master and two-time Champion of Sam Choy's Poke Contest, Kelly Zubal.

We are excited to share our love of poke with you and hope that you'll find Coast Poke Counter to be the next best thing to having poke in Hawaii.

We look forward to meeting you soon.