LemonShark Poké – a California-based chain centered on the Hawaiian salad of raw, cubed fish marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil – opened two months ago in Clayton, serving fast-casual build-your-own poké bowls and burrito-style rolls, as well as a selection of hot dishes and small bites.
This location marks the chain’s Missouri debut and its 18th overall. Running it is franchise owner Lauren Adler, a St. Louis native who saw the poké trend explode on the West Coast while working as a beer representative for a few craft breweries in California.
“I just saw poké everywhere there and wanted to bring it back to St. Louis,” says Adler. “There weren’t any here when I started the process to open this franchise two years ago. It took a little longer than expected, but we are finally open.”
LemonShark Poké occupies a (mostly) brand-new building completed in 2017. The dining area of its approximately 2,100 square feet seats 64, with a walk-up ordering counter. The modern design includes a drop ceiling and such piscatorial décor as a scalelike accent wall.
“Lemon sharks don’t eat just anything – they only eat the finest fish,” Adler says, explaining the meaning behind the restaurant’s name. “It’s multifaceted, in that they also stick together in groups, like a community that comes together to eat.”
Adler describes poké, which means “to cut,” as a Hawaiian cuisine that’s essentially deconstructed sushi. Build-your-own options constitute the most popular way to enjoy the eatery’s specialty, albeit with signature options also available. The Maui Heat Wave, for example, comes with spicy tuna and salmon, cucumber salad, avocado, serrano chili, green onion, carrot, crispy garlic, ginger, spicy ponzu (a Japanese sauce typically comprising rice vinegar, fish flakes, sweet sake, citrus juice and, often, soy sauce) and spicy mayo.
In addition to the proteins mentioned above, LemonShark Poké features numerous other options: ahi (tuna), spicy tuna, shrimp, salmon, spicy salmon, miso-glazed salmon, squid salad, octopus, herb tofu and vegan tuna (Ahimi, a proprietary substitute made from tomatoes in a soy glaze).
Customers can also customize everything from the toppings, the sauce and a crunchy element to the base, which includes one of Adler’s favorite options: black (“forbidden”) rice, which is high in fiber and antioxidants. All of those sound like divine dining choices before catching Angels in America from The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Hot appetizers and entrées, which have an Asian-fusion influence, include teriyaki chicken, coconut shrimp, fried vegetable egg rolls and Spam musubi (a popular Hawaiian snack and lunch food comprising a slice of grilled Spam atop a rice block, wrapped with seaweed). To drink, guests can choose from fountain sodas from the PepsiCo brand Stubborn Soda, coconut water, house-made lemonade, beer, sake and more, with wine available in the future.
LemonShark Poké, 33 N. Central Ave., Clayton, 314-300-8890, lemonsharkpoke.com