LOCATION: Smorgasburg LA (777 South Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021)
Whenever I’m in town for a business trip, my friend Kevin and I talk about something to do over the weekend. More often than not, that activity would be involving food. This time around, he told me about an outdoor food market called Smorgasburg over in downtown LA, open every Sunday for people to stop by. The promise of food was all I needed to hear, so we headed down there and met up with my friend Angie and her friend Jarod.
Mama Musubi caught my eye solely because of their food namesake, something I’ve been starting to look out for more opportunities to try. There were a total of 10 different musubi options available, which usually spells bad news for an indecisive person like me when put on the spot. You had your more traditional offerings like spicy tuna, salmon, or unagi (broiled eel) from the seafood side. Then, on the meat side, you had miso chicken, bacon & avocado, BBQ beef, and the Hawaiian favorite itself: Spam.
I’ll fully admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for Spam musubi, so that was definitely going to be one of the two that I ordered. The change-up this time was that I was going to add tamago to it, which is a Japanese-style grilled egg. For my second one, I decided to jump over to the seafood ones just to have some variety. Spicy tuna ended up being the one to make the final cut.
The great thing about musubi or rice balls is that it doesn’t take very long to assemble together if the rest of your ingredients are already prepped. That meant it took less than a minute from ordering the food to them already having the items ready. Both the spicy tuna rice ball and Spam musubi were a pretty decent size, which I thought was very reasonable value for the price point. The spicy tuna definitely had more of the presentation factor, with the rice ball dusted on the outside with furikake, a Japanese seasoning made up of dried seaweed, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar.
After trying them both, my personal favorite was the spicy tuna. The albacore combined with the spicy mayo had a very pronounced savory and spicy flavor combination, with the filling proportioned well to the size of the rice ball. The sugar in the furikake also helped provide some slight sweetness in some bites. On the flip side, the Spam musubi was also good, but didn’t stand out as much to me. I think with some more of the sweet soy glaze mentioned on its description, maybe in between the Spam and tamago, it would have helped give the musubi a little more depth on both the sweet and savory flavor front.
As the first stop during our visit to Smorgasburg that morning, I thought it made for a nice appetizer before we began to sample what the other food vendors had in store. Compact in size, both the musubi and rice balls can pack in quite a bit of flavor. Mama Musubi has quite the range of menu offerings to choose from, so if you’re looking to branch out and try something different, I’d recommend you hit them up.
Let’s now take a look at the Mama Musubi Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Spicy Tuna Rice Ball (pictured right) **
Cooked Albacore tuna mixed with spicy mayo on the inside, rice ball dusted with furikake
And finally, here are my rankings for Mama Musubi:
Food: 4.25 / 5
The rice, which is one of the most important ingredients in their dishes, was cooked to just the right consistency. When you get that rice that is too soft, that can really detract from the experience; Mama Musubi definitely didn’t have that issue. There’s a wide range of offerings, with the items I tried tasting very fresh and having good flavor combinations.
With over 60+ food vendors at the outdoor market, that definitely attracts quite the crowd. Tons of people standing in lines, sitting down and eating, and different food smells coming from all directions. Just the sea of food choices alone made it hard to choose what to go for.
Service: 4 / 5
Speed is always going to be pretty key when you’re at a market like Smorgasburg, so the simplicity of making the food will go a long way towards that. With getting us out our orders in probably less than a minute since we placed them, that was pretty impressive. But the person taking our orders at the front seemed rather apathetic, so I guess I didn’t get as much of a welcoming sense from the staff.
Price: 4.5 / 5
With the spicy tuna rice ball and Spam musubi I got each at just under $4, I thought that it was a relatively fair price for the quantity of food that you get.