On the Menu: Sushi and tapas make for a Joint effort in Ocean Beach

The Joint's albacore sashimi is one of owner Michael Lowe's favorite dishes.
(Courtesy of Arlene Ibarra)

When locally sourced, organic sushi collides with flamboyant Spanish-style tapas served with a side of ocean breezes compliments of the Ocean Beach Pier, you know you’ve arrived at The Joint.

The decor pulls you right in — a juxtaposition of neoclassic murals with kitschy industrial elements, a glitzy copper ceiling, wall-size windows, a cozy sushi bar and a dog-friendly outdoor patio.

Owner Michael Lowe just celebrated his 11th anniversary at the Newport Avenue location, preceded by a long stint in the restaurant business that dated to his high school days. About a dozen years ago, Lowe wanted to fill the vacant niche for sushi bars in Ocean Beach. But he also wanted to please diners averse to raw fish, like his mom.

So he opened the doors to The Joint within sniffing distance of the sea and built a menu incorporating both sushi and assorted tapas.

An organic fanatic for decades and a regular patron of OB co-op People’s Organic Food Market, Lowe’s healthful ethos is reflected in the products served — “all sustainable fish from purveyors using the best practices, along with local and organic produce.”

His favorite dishes include Peruvian-style ceviche, a piscivore’s delight of mixed seafood in a marinade of lime, cilantro and chilies; paper-thin salmon carpaccio drizzled in chili ponzu and accessorized with tempura jalapenos; and albacore sashimi.

Assorted sushi and tapas from The Joint.
(Courtesy of Arlene Ibarra)

But we’re just getting started. There are more sushi combos at The Joint than nori farmers in Japan. Heading the popular list are specialty rolls like the Rasta, blending spicy tuna, avocado, cilantro, tobiko (flying fish roe), micro greens and choice of brown or white sushi rice drizzled with a soy uzon sauce; Dr. Eel Good, with a mix of tempura shrimp, eel, cream cheese and wasabi aioli; and the Hippie Dream veggie roll, combining enoki mushrooms with tempeh, pickled shallots, hemp seeds and kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seed) rolled in soy paper.

The choices of tapas are just as bountiful — Shrimp Ajillo with an herbal cognac sauce, Mussels Catalonia, The Joint hot citrus wings, and mac and cheese drizzled with smoky bechemel. The Joint burger, a grass-fed Angus patty dressed with Swiss cheese, sauteed mushrooms, garlic aioli and a side of truffle fries, also is a fave.

The Joint's version of mac and cheese for tapas.
(Courtesy of Arlene Ibarra)

Check out happy-hour specials and weekend brunches with delights such as miso braised short ribs; French toast stack topped with local berries, candied pecans, yuzu whipped mascarpone and local honey; salmon cake Benedict with hollandaise, spinach and micro cilantro; and Southern-style fried chicken with waffles and Vermont maple syrup.

You can wash it down with a classic mimosa, an agave-smoked tequila mezcal or a Bloody Maria or Mary. The latter has been rebrewed, sustainable and recycled by reusing the leftover grains from beer to make the vodka in the cocktail.

Executive chef Chris Osborne regularly rotates the menu, incorporating the freshest seasonal produce and seafood possible.

Seafood tapas served at The Joint.
(Courtesy of Arlene Ibarra)

“I’m blessed to work with Specialty Produce and three local farms, finding amazing items to build the menu off of,” Osborne said. “Mike and I are Southern boys and have our Southern touches.”

That includes crispy jidori chicken (a free-range bird with Japanese lineage and intense flavor) using French techniques, and wild salmon blackened for tacos, paired with whipped potatoes, garlic marinated tomatoes, house-made beurre blanc and braised collard greens.

The Joint has a loyal local following, along with a steady stream of seasonal tourists and anyone else who wants “a fine-dining experience amid a casual beach atmosphere,” Lowe said. He recommends making reservations on weekends for brunches and dinners, and on Wednesdays, as The Joint is bull’s-eye in the middle of the bustling farmers market in the late afternoon.

What’s coming down the pike for this hybrid sushi bar? Karla Manglicmot, general manager and certified sake professional, will be curating casual, fun, impromptu beer and sake dinners featuring local beers and an upscale sake list.

Lowe plans to continue assorted charity events, including food and merchandise donations, and is working on launching a ramen shop a stone’s throw from his current location, along with opening The Joint Hilo Sushi in Hawaii.

The Joint

Where: 4902 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach

Hours: Open daily; hours vary

Information: (619) 222-8272,


Spanish romesco sauce


• 5 large red bell peppers

• 4 jalapeno peppers

• 12 cloves of whole garlic

• 12 unroasted almonds (preferably marcona)

• 3 tablespoons canola or avocado oil

• Kosher salt and white pepper to taste


• Preheat oven on the broiler setting to 450 degrees.

• Cut bell and jalapeno peppers down the sides to lay the edible parts as flat as possible, skin-side up on a baking sheet. Be sure to remove the tops, seeds and ribs. In addition, add the whole cloves of garlic and almonds to the sheet in one thin layer. Drizzle all ingredients with 1 tablespoon of oil and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

• Bake directly under the broiler for 15 to 20 minutes until the skin of all ingredients becomes brown and blistered. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.

• Using your hands, remove the skin from the peppers and add to a blender along with roasted garlic and almonds. Add additional salt and pepper as needed for taste. Blend the ingredients starting on low and gradually increase the speed while pouring in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to emulsify. Once the consistency is smooth and orange-colored, it is ready to transfer to a sealable container and stored cold for up to 2 weeks.

• Bell peppers are in peak season in the summer, so that is when the sauce really shines. Make a smooth layer of the romesco on a plate and then cover with slices of ripe heirloom tomatoes. Sprinkle with roasted corn and torn leaves of basil, then drizzle with some EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and coarse-grained salt.

• Enjoy with a cool glass of Spanish rosè and you’ll feel like you are having lunch at a Spanish winery on a summer afternoon.

— Courtesy of Chris Osborne


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