MOORESVILLE – Asian fusion restaurants with the requisite Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines have become somewhat commonplace. It’s rare to find a more exotic type of Asian cuisine as a standalone restaurant especially in the Mooresville area.

Joel’s Asian Grill and Sushi has the necessary sushi bar, Thai selections and Chinese favorites. But for those in the know, there is also an entire Filipino menu featuring 13 dishes and several desserts.

Owner Joel Jose just shrugs his shoulders.

“All the Filipino people in the area know about us,” Jose said. “We are the place to get authentic and tasty food.”

Jose came over from the Philippines in 1999 as an executive assistant with an employer who was in the construction business. When the employer was about to retire, he wanted to find work for Jose.

A Japanese Steakhouse needed a manager; and although Jose had never worked in the restaurant business before, he gave it a shot.

“My boss really encouraged me to try the restaurant business,” he said. “I had to learn everything on the job.”

In 2001, he opened the first Joel’s Grill in Davidson. He subsequently moved to Mooresville in 2005 when a place with more space became available.

Joel’s Asian Grill and Sushi is located in a strip mall. But upon entering the restaurant, it feels like the customer is suddenly on holiday. There are Kaffir lime-colored walls with orange accents lending an ethnic flair. The tall ceilings are painted black and have wooden lights with fish cutouts hanging down low. The bar, which doubles as a sushi bar, has bottles of beer lining the perimeter to show customers their options. There is an outdoor patio with tons of natural wood and umbrellas over the tables.

Upon being seated, the server will present the customer with two large menus. Be sure to ask for the third Filipino menu that is only offered upon request. There is so much to chose from on the first two menus: appetizers, soups, salads, wraps, rice bowls, tempura, Japanese Steakhouse items, Asian fajitas (sizzling platters) and noodle dishes. Plus there is the sushi menu and bento boxes, as well.

The Filipino menu is full of traditional and hard-to-find favorites. For example, Jose special orders taro leaves, which are a leaf vegetable, for the Lechon Kawali, which is a pork belly dish.

“I used to have to order pork belly special, as well,”said Jose. “But now it seems to be growing in popularity.”

This dish is surely Filipino perfection with the crispy pork belly served over the taro cooked in coconut cream. Jose has customers who come from as far as Atlanta to eat the Filipino fare.

“The community knows we are here and love to get a taste of their favorites,” he said.

Most restaurants with large menu selections make due with packaged products and sauces; not so at Joel’s. Here they make all their own sauces, dressings, desserts, soups and even the bread. These items became so popular with customers, that catering and sauce-making companies are now offshoots of the restaurant. There is also a full catering menu so patrons can enjoy the food at any type of event.

The Pistachio Sansrival arrives with layers of pistachio meringue and smooth butter cream. It is nutty and slightly sweet; the perfect end to an amazing meal.

“We have six cooks in the kitchen plus three sushi chefs,” Jose said. “Whatever you order is going to be prepared fresh and with great taste!”


Want to go? Joel’s Grill and Sushi, 110 Market Place Drive, Mooresville, 704-660-1617.