2728 Main Street (between Hill and Ashland)
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Bike Access: good
Sunny Blue oh Sunny Blue, how I love you! (I didn’t even mean to rhyme!)
after work and host my own version of Happy Hour there. Having said that, I realize the hill probably is a very good thing for my
wallet and caloric intake. Regardless, I do make a point to go there on Fridays to kick off my weekend. I recall one cold rainy Friday evening when I hiked over the hill in rain boots to visit my beloved (that would be Sunny Blue), thinking I would have the store (and, hence, all the miso beef omusubis) all to myself, but I was wrong. Stacked in that tiny storefront were three other suitors, eagerly drooling over the offerings. Because my favorite flavor has the tendency to run out, I was at first not very friendly to those others. Thankfully, more miso beef was simmering in the pot, my tummy was happy, and we all ended up waxing poetic about how much we love these rice balls (true story!).
As usual, I wait too long before actually talking about the food. Omusubis are essentially palm-sized rice balls stuffed with yumminess, wrapped in sheets of seaweed (you may have heard about – if not tasted – the infamous Spam musubi, which is quite a different beast). As one oink partner of Japanese descent tells me, this is one of those dishes that everyone makes and makes slightly differently. In my humble opinion, omusubis are the definition of a snack for the road. I first came across Sunny Blue while ‘trolling the pages of Yelp for highly rated eateries in Santa Monica, as I often do in my free time. 4.5 stars AND close to me? Sold!
My first ever omusubi was the miso beef. It was a revelation, no matter how tired that expression is. Everything about that nugget of goodness was right: warm, slightly chewy rice crumbling into savory, umami-y beef with the salty, elastic bite of seaweed to finish. Soooooo good! As satisfying as that might sound, I have no doubt that I could have had 5 more on the spot. Just writing this is setting off my salivary glands…
I never miss an opportunity to scarf down the miso beef, but occasionally I tag on another flavor as well (call me adventurous). The (temporarily, I hope) discontinued curry pork is my second favorite. It had the strong, almost bitter flavor characteristic of Japanese curry mixed with juicy ground pork. Other flavors attempted, to lesser degrees of ecstasy, are hijiki (seaweed, shitake mushrooms, carrots, green beans with soy sauce base), spicy tuna, and chiken. The menu changes frequently – thankfully, my precious miso beef has yet to be benched.
Each omusubi comes to out an average of about $2.80 when tax is taken into account. Even as a snack, one is probably not enough for most adults (if only because they are so delicious!). Should you find yourself hankering for something more, Sunny Blue also offers organic frozen yogurt (shamefully, I am not able to offer my dear readers a review as I only ever get omusubis when here) and free barley tea that washes down the rice balls quite well.
Sunny Blue has a tiny sliver of a storefront, but the interior is cheery and bright and the owners gracious and eager to get to know their customers. As mentioned in other posts, there are some tiny tables and stools set up on the sidewalk outside as well as a counter inside. I hope that more such establishments – unique, well-conceived, and democratic in pricing – crop up; this is the type of place where people of all types congregate, that inspires connection to and love for a town.
Take-Home Message: Go. But don’t get so many of the miso beef that there isn’t any left for me.