Slideshow: We Eat Every Rice Ball at Sunny Blue, in Santa Monica

Spicy Salmon Rice Ball ($4)
Spicy Salmon Rice Ball ($4)

Some of the best dishes rely on simplicity. The spicy salmon rice ball marries little more than cured salmon and chile seasoning. No confusing muddle of flavors, just the nicely salted salmon, with an invigorating spicy top note. It's a tad drier than the other seafood offerings, but it's one of my favorites on the menu.

Ebi Mayo Rice Ball ($5)
Ebi Mayo Rice Ball ($5)

One of the specials that isn't listed on the main menu, ebi mayo (shrimp salad), brings back fond memories of keitin sushi joints in Shimo Kitazawa. The shrimp salad is fragrant with a light touch of citrus and uses just the right amount of mayo to give the rice ball a nice, moist texture. The ebi mayo is my instinctive first choice when I stop by Sunny Blue.

Mentaiko Spicy Cod Roe Rice Ball ($4.95)
Mentaiko Spicy Cod Roe Rice Ball ($4.95)

Served unconventionally in a cup, the spicy cod roe rice ball may leave you wondering why there isn't more of the addictive sweet and briny cod roe. Given that it's at the high end of the price range, I would've liked a more generous serving. Then again, there's probably no such thing as enough cod roe. Ever. It makes sense that this is one of the restaurant's most popular omsubi, because full as I got, I couldn't stop myself from sneaking more furtive bites.

Ume and Shiso Leaf Sour Plum Rice Ball ($3.15)
Ume and Shiso Leaf Sour Plum Rice Ball ($3.15)

Ume, or sour plum, is a classic Japanese ingredient. Lightly sprinkled throughout the rice ball, the distinct sweet and sour flavor offers a unique sensory experience, making this rice ball the favorite of my vegetarian companion. I would've liked to see the minty shiso come through more strongly, but it was far from a deal-breaker.

Lucky Cat Rice Ball [$4]
Lucky Cat Rice Ball [$4]
The Lucky Cat rice ball is filled with ginger, Japanese pickles, and bonito. Despite being very colorful, the pickles were very mild with a light acidic tang. The flavor was rounded out by the pleasantly fishy bonito, and the sesame seeds lent a welcome toasty crunch. Although the rice was a bit overcooked in this rice ball.
Miso Mushroom Rice Ball ($3.25)
Miso Mushroom Rice Ball ($3.25)

Another one of the bountiful vegan options at Sunny Blue, the miso mushroom combines two quintessential Japanese flavors: sweet fermented miso paste and mushrooms. I wasn't particularly pleased by the stringy texture of the mushrooms, even though I normally love enokis, and the king oyster mushrooms went unnoticed. I'd pass on this one next time.

Tuna Salad Rice Ball ($3.15)
Tuna Salad Rice Ball ($3.15)

The tuna salad rice ball is marked on the menu as the manager's favorite and it's easy to see why. Take classic and nicely moistened tuna salad, sprinkle it with toasted sesame seeds, and wrap it up in a rice ball and you have a match made in Japanese-American fusion heaven.

Kara Tuna Rice Ball ($3.50)
Kara Tuna Rice Ball ($3.50)

The albacore tuna salad comes mixed with fresh bits of diced cucumber, onions, and spicy mayo. My companion disliked it from the start, but I loved the combination of flavors. If you're a fan of onions, this is the rice ball for you; otherwise, proceed with caution.

Curry Chicken Rice Ball ($3.50)
Curry Chicken Rice Ball ($3.50)

Japanese cuisine loves its sweet yellow chicken curry. At Sunny Blue, you'll find nice large chunks of tender chicken, but for my tastes, the turmeric flavored curry sauce is a bit too sweet. It's definitely a heavier and more filling rice ball than the vegetarian and seafood options.

Tokyo Tori Rice Ball ($3.55)
Tokyo Tori Rice Ball ($3.55)

Another of the generously chicken-filled rice balls, the Tokyo Tori comes in a sweet and sour sauce, similar to the popular Chinese fast food dish. If you love sweet and sour chicken then this will be a pleaser, otherwise the Miso Beef still takes the top spot.

Godzilla Sauce ($1.10)
Godzilla Sauce ($1.10)

We southern Californians ask for hot sauce at just about every restaurant, so it's not a surprise that even a Japanese rice ball joint has its own spice-it-up sauce. The Godzilla sauce features anchovies, red chili peppers, and garlic, but I found it only mildly spicy; I prefer savoring the rice balls on their own.