A traditional sushi/sashimi meal often involves grinning across a glass barrier at specially dressed chefs, eagerly anticipating a fresh dish that’s equal parts flavor and decorative charm, and the camaraderie of chatting with dining partners.
The Sweet Poke experience is much more akin to In-N-Out’s. You can arrive, drop about $12 on a combo with a side and drink and be on your way with a sashimi-stuffed burrito or bowl in less than 10 minutes. Even sit-down meals appear engineered to last closer to 30 minutes than 80.
Food, therefore, is the star of the show at Sweet Poke and the restaurant acquits itself well. Most non-sushi ingredients are stored in plastic containers behind a glass divider — assembly line-style — while the sashimi is surprisingly fresh for a restaurant modeled to maximize efficiency.
The main-course burritos and bowls are made with sushi-roll ingredients and include specialties such as the Bay 101, with scallop, red onion, crab, cilantro, cooked shrimp, seaweed and creamy jalapeno sauce; Dragon, with unagi (cooked eel), spicy tuna, avocado, crab with eel sauce and chipotle mayonnaise; and Shaka Surf, with salmon, masago (crunchy orange fish eggs), crab, tempura crunch, green onion and sweet poke sauce.
The side options are miso soup, vegetable chips, edamame (soybeans) and seaweed, which cost $1.50 to $1.99 individually.
There wasn’t a wait during two recent visits to Sweet Poke’s newest Las Vegas location, on the “student strip” off Maryland Parkway across from UNLV. For those who do face a wait or sit at one of the restaurant’s small tables, there’s free Wi-Fi. Speaking of the Maryland Parkway location, it was closed for multiple weeks recently because of a fire in the kitchen area, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Although fish takes top billing at Sweet Poke, an ample supply of vegetable toppings and sides offers a welcome infusion of nutrition and flavor. Such offerings include spinach, avocado, the aforementioned edamame, onions and seaweed.
Sweet Poke’s freshness is a strong selling point; portability is another. The bowls keep well and can easily be purchased for consumption the next day — but no later than that. It is uncooked fish, after all.
ABOUT SWEET POKE
Where: There are four Las Vegas locations; this review covers the newly opened eatery near UNLV at 4680 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 300 (call 702-202-2180). The others are at 5655 Centennial Center Blvd., Suite 120 (702-826-3150), 7965 S. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 135 (702-912-5891) and 9255 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 340 (702-545-0820).
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays.