I like to think of Japanese rice balls—known as omsubi or onigiri—as the Japanese equivalent of an American sandwich—they're only as good as the sum and quality of their parts. It wasn't until a visit to Tokyo that I learned just how phenomenal a well-made rice ball can be—one bite of a freshly-made teriyaki chicken omsubi, drizzled with Kewpie mayo and wrapped in crisp nori, and I was a lifelong convert.
Unfortunately, finding transcendent rice balls in my home town of Santa Monica was more of a challenge. Which is why I was thrilled, if initially wary, when Sunny Blue opened its doors three years ago, the storefront plastered with twinkly-eyed rice ball stickers announcing a menu of homemade omsubi. And thankfully, Sunny Blue is serving up over a dozen varieties that manage to satisfy my cravings and high expectations alike.
The menu explores a range of classic Japanese flavors, like sour plum and wasabi, along with modern and playful Japanese-American renditions (think tuna salad with sesame seeds). Each rice ball is patted and molded into a rounded triangle and topped with a crunchy combination of bonito, sesame seeds, and/or furikake.
Inexpensive, filling, and flavorful—you couldn't ask for an easier quick choice for lunch or dinner. Pescatarian producer Mayuran Tiruchelvam of To Be Takei fame helpfully lent his tastebuds, tasting opinions, and "rice belly" at this vegan- and gluten-friendly joint, which already has a faithful Angeleno following.
With prices ranging from $3.15 to $4.95, there's no reason to skimp on your order...which is why we decided to take on the full dozen that Sunny Blue had in stock. In one sitting. Because, well, rice balls. See them all in the slideshow or check 'em out in the list below!
All the Rice Balls at Sunny Blue
- Spicy Salmon Rice Ball
- Ebi Mayo Rice Ball
- Mentaiko Spicy Cod Roe Rice Ball
- Wasabi Tsukudani Rice Ball
- Ume and Shiso Leaf Sour Plum Rice Ball
- Miso Mushroom Rice Ball
- Hijiki Rice Ball
- Tuna Salad Rice Ball
- Kara Tuna Rice Ball
- Curry Chicken Rice Ball
- Miso Beef Rice Ball
- Tokyo Tori Rice Ball
About the author: Joy Hui Lin loves soCal for its plentiful and authentic Asian eats. She writes for Serious Eats, Time Out LA, and Saveur Magazine.