This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Although it's been nearly a decade since I've eaten poke on Oahu's North Shore, it's a food memory that lingersthe fresh fish, the warm breeze, the aloha atmosphere.
It's these memories that Laid Back Poke Shack in Holladay evokes.
Hawaiian Poke is sashimi-quality fish marinated in a variety of sauces and served deli-style in plastic containers. It is best eaten on a beach watching the waves. With such an active Polynesian culture in Utah and given our obsession with sushi it's surprising that poke hasn't blossomed in the Salt Lake Valley sooner.
And while there is no beach in Holladay, Laid Back Poke Shack delivers the Hawaiian experience on every other front.
The décor is bright and cheery with bamboo accents.
The owners fly in fresh fish several times a week from which they make their wide variety of poke. (If current demand is any indication, they may have to up the frequency of shipments, as the restaurant regularly runs out of this raw Hawaiian import.)
If you're not familiar with poke, don't fear. The setup at Laid Back Poke Shack brings you first to a tasting bar where you're invited to sample before ordering. Poke is available in small ($11.50) or regular ($14.50) combination bowls; each comes with shredded cabbage and a choice of brown or white rice. The small includes two poke choices, the regular threewhich only the hungriest of adults could devour in one sitting.
A regular poke bowl equals about three large sushi rolls, so it's an economical choice for fresh fish.
Each day, Laid Back Poke Shack offers somewhere between eight and 12 poke options in addition to a few nonpoke items such as kalua pig and musubi ($2.89) a Hawaiian invention of grilled Spam between two patties of rice, wrapped in nori seaweed and served warm. It's an interesting version of Spam sushi that is filling if not overly flavorful.
Traditional ahi poke is usually yellowfin tuna, and Laid Back Poke Shack typically has several flavors on hand, from the shoyu ahi with soy and sesame seeds to the ginger ahi with just the right amount of ginger zing and green onions. There's also the spicy ahi with a kicky mayo sauce and tobiko for pops of flavor and the limu ahi with chile paste, crunchy seaweed and onions.
I like the more unusual seafood bites, so the slightly sour but not overpowering fermented kimchi mussels won me over on the first bite with a kick of heat to finish.
And although I tasted the intriguing taegu twice a candied, salted cod cut into thin, chewy matchsticks I felt that a full serving might have overwhelmed my palate.
As a lover of octopus, I found the chile-marinated oyster tako to be a perfect representation with just a slight bite and plenty of flavor but neither chewy nor dry. Mushrooms and onions supported the cephalopod beautifully. Unfortunately, I found the kimchi tako overpowered the octopus far more than the mussel rendition.
Another cooked poke option (one that took three visits to secure) is the sweet chile shrimp with plump shrimp and chunks of mango in a slightly sweet, pepper-studded sauce.
Although the spicy snow crab sounded pedestrian, it was one of my favorites. Cooked snow crab meat was mixed with Sriracha and just enough mayonnaise to bind the sweet crab together, then topped with fresh avocado.
The lomi lomi salmon is perhaps an acquired taste, as the salmon lost its freshness from marinating in the pico-like mixture of tomatoes and onions and ultimately left the salmon too salty.
Better was the shoyu salmon with big, bright chunks of salmon marinated in soy sauce and sesame seeds.
The only item that was truly disappointing was the kalua pig, which was mushy and nearly tasteless. It is available as an option in a poke bowl or on its own for $7.50 (small) or $9.50 (regular).
A few starters dot the menu, including edamame ($3.99), which was nice to share at the table while we waited for our poke bowls. The shack's seaweed salad ($4.99) was fresher than many I've had at Salt Lake's sushi restaurants.
The owners of Laid Back Poke Shack have done a fine job of giving the restaurant a welcoming aloha feel, but its true calling might come from the takeout market. Poke and seaweed salad are sold by the pound for an easy and impressive party offering or simple dinner at home.
Although I wouldn't have pegged the slightly hidden location in the strip mall near Snider Brothers Meats in Holladay as the poke capital of Salt Lake, Laid Back Poke Shack is surprising guests with fresh fish made with lots of Hawaiian mahalo!
Heather L. King also writes for http://www.theutahreview.com and can be found on social media @slclunches
Laid Back Poke Shack
Food • HHH
Mood • HH
Service • HHH
Noise • bbm
Laid Back Poke Shack in Holladay offers fresh fish and plenty of Hawaiian mahalo in poke bowls available in nearly a dozen flavors each day.
Location • 6213 S. Highland Drive, Holladay; 801-635-8190
Online • facebook.com/Laid-Back-Poke-Shack
Hours • Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$
Liquor • No
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking •Yes
Credit cards • All major