I have never been to Asia. While this is something I’d like to change in the coming years, in the meantime, I must experience it one step removed, whether that means through travel stories and photos from my friends, or Asian-American culture and cuisine.
In Japan, a common traditional snack is called Onigiri or Omusubi. It is essentially a rice ball, with some different fillings, wrapped up in sea weed. They are fast food, and my friend told me he found them even in the 7-11s in Tokyo (wait, there are 7-11s in Japan?). I had never seen Onigiri or Omusubi on a menu at a Japanese restaurant, where I’ve typically eaten something common like sushi or udon.
After a long day with my daughter KB, first driving around Los Angeles and then frolicking in the waves of the Santa Monica beach, I consulted the internet for a quick and easy dinner. The top recommendation in the area in my price range (which is of course the cheapest $ out of $$$$) was the Japanese and frozen yogurt restaurant Sunny Blue, right on Main street. I was picturing a generic serve yourself frozen yogurt with a bunch of kids hanging around, and the option of noodles. Kid perfect.
Instead, we ended up at this sort of avant-garde restaurant that is the first in all of Southern California to feature Omusubi, and they do an amazing job of it. I was looking at the vegan options for a change of pace, when a cute kid about 12 years old told me I should order the miso beef. So, I did, along with the spicy salmon, and tuna mayo. (For an image of the place’s menu, see this blog post whose title made me laugh.) KB and I also ordered the miso soup. This was the perfect amount of food for us, leaving us totally satisfied. And there was complimentary tea! That was delicious! Whenever someone gives me free tea, I’m a little bit smitten.
The staff is super friendly and it definitely has a family-run vibe. They assemble the omusubi in front of you, while chatting pleasantly. All the customers besides us were clearly regulars and were on a first-name basis with the chefs. The only thing that bothered me about the place was the lack of a reasonable eating area. There are these little shelves you can prop up on, and while it’s kind of cute in a way, it’s totally impractical for me with my kiddo. A little table or bench outside the restaurant would have been nice.