The Joint in Sherman Oaks Combines Coffee and Seafood

May sound a little kooky, but locals are loving it.

Coffee & Seafood will never be the next PB & J, but those two items share the spotlight at The Joint, an airy Sherman Oaks café and market where owner Liwei Liao celebrates his twin passions.

Six mornings a week, at dawn, Liwei jockeys with sushi chefs for prized catches at downtown seafood markets. He fills The Joint’s display case with a “high-mix, low-volume” selection that might include wild Canadian black cod, farmed Baja striped bass and live Santa Barbara box crab.

Fish are butchered whole in-house, other than larger tuna, Alaskan halibut and swordfish. “When a fish gets cut, it starts breaking down and losing a bit of its moisture,” Liwei explains. That’s why they wait to cut each second half until needed.

“As a private chef and someone intrigued by good ingredients, it’s so limited. Sherman Oaks is the next stepping stone expanding out from Studio City, North Hollywood and Silver Lake.”

Liwei says he plans to share his oceanic knowledge at upcoming butchery and cooking classes.

Each day Liwei prints a menu based on seasonal market finds. During my visit, Uni is My Jam! featured a buttered French roll slathered with uni jam—a rich sea urchin, sugar and butter reduction—plus soft scrambled egg folded with more urchin. Sweet skewered shrimp came seasoned with wasabi salt and plated on chunky mango salsa. Market choice allows diners to get any item in the case pan seared with salt, pepper and garlic butter or oven baked with Parmesan herb crust.

Meantime behind a white counter, baristas brew local Copa Vida beans and pull shots of Heart Coffee Roasters espresso. Seasonal drinks might include a honey latte or rose tea latte.

Liwei occasionally incorporates coffee into his cooking. He uses grounds for rubs and serves coffee with lemon as a palate cleanser between courses.

Growing up in Bayside, Queens, Liwei’s family frequently went fishing, cleaning and cooking what they reeled in. He honed his cooking skills while working as a private chef and running the Boba Truck for six years. During that period, he discovered an opportunity to do something new and different with The Joint.

A tile-lined wall separates the small fish market from the dining area and café. With wood tables, the casual, attractive dining room also houses a coffee bar. White walls are lined with framed fish paintings and blackboard diagrams hinting at Liwei’s commitment to coffee and seafood.

If you love seafood, Sunday is a good night to visit. “Seafood Smash Sundays” represent Liwei’s ultimate seafood vision. Each family-style meal can accommodate up to 20 people, at a cost of $45 to $65 apiece, depending on the menu. Recent courses included deviled eggs with kombu mustard and salmon roe; Parmesan baked Bluepoint oysters; and seafood paella.

Liwei asks, “Who says coffee and seafood can’t mix?” The Joint certainly answers doubters.

The Joint  |  13718 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks

818-510-0626  |