Now open in Carlsbad is the striking Blue Ocean. Designed by local firm Bells & Whistles (Sea & Smoke, Starlite) the building is meant to evoke a modernist aquarium; inside, sushi (the owners also run the Love Boat Sushi chain) is showcased in an eye-catching space full of textured surfaces and light fixtures fashioned to look like bubbling water and spiky sea urchins.
Overseeing the kitchen is Andy Halvorsen, whose most recent post was as sous chef at A.R. Valentien, though he started his cooking career at an Asian restaurant in San Francisco.
Beyond the sushi and specialty rolls, Blue Ocean offers small plates (warm cashew salad, pork belly buns, caramelized eggplant), larger entrees (crispy whole striped bass, honey-lacquered duck breast) and a selection of yakitori - skwered meats, seafood and vegetables cooked to order on a custom-made robata grill over binchotan, a clean-burning Japanese charcoal. The full menu is also available at the stylish bar, where there are six taps of craft beer, a nice collection of Japanese whisky and a cocktail list curated by the Queen-Connor-Ward Collective (Puesto) that includes a ginger old fashioned and a vodka collins made with lychee and chili.
Blue Ocean should open for lunch in February but for now, operating hours are 4 p.m. to midnight; there are two happy hours nightly, from 4 to 6 p.m. and 10 to midnight.