Sunny Blue’s Rice Balls Are The Perfect Balance Between Tradition and Tastiness

Sunny Blue

If you have ever been into a Japanese grocery store, or a semi-authentic take-out sushi/bento spot, than you have probably seen omusubi (or onigiri) before. They are those triangular shaped things, covered in seaweed, and wrapped in plastic (some of which require an instructional video for opening.) Traditionally, the standard pre-packaged versions usually come stuffed with cooked salmon, cod roe, or pickled plums, but just as popular are the less traditional fillings like shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and spam (by way of Hawaii.) They are perfect for a snack on the go, but for rice obsessed lunch’ers they act as a perfect add on to any Japanese lunch. The best is when you find a omusubi specialist… and that’s when things can get fun. In NYC there was a place called Oms/b, that I loved, where you could get a lunch made up entirely of rice balls topped and filled with all sorts of fun stuff (think shrimp tempura with green sea salt, and bbq eel.)

So, when I heard that Sunny Blue had opened on Main Street in Santa Monica specializing in omusubi (exciting!) and froyo (less exciting) I had to go check it out.

Sunny Blue

In keeping with the tradition of omusubi as an on the go snack, Sunny Blue is pretty tiny and doesn’t really have any seating.  But unlike Japanese grocery stores, where the rice balls are pre-made and sit in refrigerated cases, everything here is made pretty fresh right behind the counter.  There are 6 rice ball options, which are priced between $1.30 and $2.50 a la carte, but there is also a lunch special for those who are making a meal of it (2 rice balls, a side dish and Japanese pickles… price varies.)

Sunny Blue

I tried the chicken takokami and spicy salmon, with edamame.

Sunny Blue

And the hijiki (seaweed, shitake mushrooms, carrots and beans) and beef miso with daikon salad.

Sunny Blue

Admittedly this is a pretty dainty lunch for a fatso like myself (borderline healthy!) but I do love rice- and their fillings are super tasty. The hijiki rice ball isn’t completely unique to Sunny Blue, but their version is pretty tasty- provided you like the weird Japanese sea veggie that is hijiki- and the spicy salmon was pretty damn spicy (we likey.)   But the two most unique omusubi were the chicken and beef.   The curry chicken and the miso beef were both delicious, and were like nothing I’ve ever had in omusubi before.  There isn’t a ton of filling (there never are in omusubi), but it still managed to further elevate the rice ball from snack to meal.

My biggest complaint is that I’m not positive the lunch special is worth it.  Essentially they charge you for whatever two rice balls you order, plus the side dish- and give you the pickles for free.  That’s not much of a lunch deal- especially if you don’t like Japanese salty pickles (they are an acquired taste.)  The one good thing about the combo is for an extra $2 you can add a small frozen yogurt with one topping.  (Now that’s a good deal.)

They’ve only been open for a month, so I’m guessing the menu is still a work in progress… but based on this first visit I’m excited to see how this place progresses.  They’ve retained enough of the traditions of omusubi to make it feel authentic, while adding just enough of their own twist to make it exciting.  And the prices aren’t too shabby either.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

  • God I love rice!  And this is good rice…
  • I like traditional omusubi, but also like the fact that they make versions with interesting fillings
  • So fresh… unlike some of the pre packaged versions you get at Japanese grocery stores.
  • There’s something for my healthy vegetarian co-worker to eat, while I chow down on delicious miso beef and curry chicken
  • Free cold barley tea!

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)

  • I think of rice as filler… and these things are mostly rice!
  • I don’t like seaweed.  Or weird Japanese vegetables.
  • Omusubi is supposed to be quick and on the go.  If they’re backed up with orders, sometimes it can take too long
  • There’s, like, 4 seats in the whole place!
  • That’s not enough food for me…

Sunny Blue, 2728 Main Street, 310-399-9030


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