Ozumo Donburi Rice Bowl

Ozumo is a high-end Japanese transplant from San Francisco, with a beautiful dimly-lit, gilded dining room and a pricey menu of fresh fish and robata skewers, among other expensive traditional Japanese fare. But you don’t have to miss out on this lovely spot in the new Santa Monica Place just because you’re a frugal diner—they have some very good values for lunch and happy hour, including a $10 rice bowl. The rice bowl is huge, you could really split it with someone if you’re not starving, and there are four options: curry tofu with vegetables and brown rice, which is my bowl of choice, as well as prime angus beef with sweet soy sauce, Japanese fried chicken, and teriyaki glazed freshwater eel. If a big rice bowl isn’t appealing to you, there are a surprising number of other affordable lunch options, including sushi bento boxes for $14 and flavorful ramen and udon soups for $11. These prices might not be blowing your mind, but for the quality of the food and the really delightful atmosphere, the value is right. What I like about the tofu bowl is the flavor of the traditional Japanese curry, strong and thick and tangy. With plenty of perfectly cooked brown rice and carrots and potatoes, it’s a hearty lunch at a pretty reasonable price, and you can order it in the bar or sitting in the dining room. On a nice day though, you may want to opt for the little outdoor lounge area. If you hang around after you’re done with your rice bowl, you might just transition into the next mealtime, and order from the Happy Hour menu starting at 3pm. From 3-7 every day, including weekends, $3 draft Sapporos are enticing; $5 skewers of pork belly or grilled salmon or tender glazed chicken are also available. You could order a garlic edamame for $4 or a miso soup for $3. There are even some sushi rolls available for about what you would pay for prepackaged grocery store sushi. Relaxing in the bar or outside on the patio, drinking beers and eating tender sushi, you could pass an entire afternoon grazing with friends, and never dread seeing the bill.