Hidden sushi gem (Oyako in Santa Monica)
Okay, it's actually not very hidden - it's in plain view on Main Street, next door to Library Ale House. But somehow it's usually half empty, despite its delicious sushi offerings. Normally, I would like this state of affairs, since I do hate waiting, but I'm worried that they won't stay open if things don't pick up.
It's the special rolls that make Oyako one of my favorites - not only do they have a long list of interesting special rolls (in addition to the standard nigiri, sashimi and rolls), but there are always a few daily specials (last time I was there I tried a white tuna and salmon roll with peach sauce, for instance). They have some fabulous special sauces (the peach is only one example), including a pink sauce that's light, airy, tangy and delicious. The recipe is a house secret - they won't even tell us what that mysterious flavor is. My boyfriend thinks watermelon, I swear I can taste ginger and maybe a hint of cucumber. The fish is fresh; nigiri and sashimi pieces are generous; and the rolls are always creative and delicious.
2915 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
Just don't tell TOO many people...
I ate there with a friend a few weeks ago b/c the restaurant we planned on going to was closed on Monday. We really enjoyed it as well. I thought the spicy tuna appetizer was fantastic. We split a few special rolls including the "monkey balls" which were really neat and tasty if not your usual sushi. Everything was beautifully presented, and I enjoyed the sauces as well. I didn't have any standard sushi, but I'll definitely have to try that next time.
Sorry, I should have explained--it's not nearly as exotic as it sounds. Turns out it's basically it's an avocado, half stuffed with california roll ingredients, half with spicy tuna. Then it's fried (tempura style) and sauced with spicy sauce and a sweeter (fruit?) sauce and served in eighths. Sushi-purists will probably hate it, but I thought it was great. Just for background, I'm a big fan of both traditional sushi and more modern interpretations like spicy tuna rolls, but generally not of the crazier rolls--I generally don't like my rolls sauced or with too much in them. I've seen monkey balls on a few other california-style sushi menus, so it's not unique to Oyako. But I still have no idea why they are called Monkey balls.
We ended up here one night when the wait at Library Ale House was too long and we've been going back every since. I love their Uni which is kind of a litmus test for me and sushi restaurants. The chef loves being creative and has made me spur of the moment tastes that are out of this world. Very fresh fish and friendly service. The only thing I don't like is when people sit at the tables out front and smoke - it blows back into the restaurant - other than that I'm very happy to be able to walk here when I'm craving sushi.