Rice Things is a hidden treat

A Japanese dining festival lies in the last place you would expect: on the edge of an unremarkable shopping plaza, right next to a quaint nail salon. With its casual atmosphere and affordable food options, Rice Things is bringing more than just rice to Redondo Beach.

The low prices and easily missed exterior of the restaurant can be deceiving; after all, a combo order with two or three entrees, rice and a house salad for under ten dollars seems almost too good to be true. But Rice Things does not disappoint eaters with its wide-ranging Japanese menu which includes a gold mine of quality seafood and rice bowls.

Perhaps the most savory dishes they have to offer are the staple foods of nearly every Japanese restaurant in Southern California: sushi rolls. Consisting only of rice and seaweed wrapped around rectangular slices of cucumber and the raw fish of your choice, the simple yet delectable flavor of the roll is accentuated by the few ingredients wrapped within it.

Thinly-sliced, fresh and completely raw, the sashimi is another entree that impresses customers with its smooth, buttery texture. Although the dish costs around $8, which is more expensive than other dishes at the restaurant, it does come with a side of soy sauce, cucumbers, pickled gingers, watercress and wasabi that makes for a pleasant flavor circus. Moreover, the menu offers a wide variety of sashimi ranging from salmon to shrimp to — this may turn the stomachs of those who are less used to the idea — octopus.

While Rice Things certainly excels in the seafood department, their non-fish teriyaki bowls tend to be chewy and, in some cases, bland. For instance, while the steak teriyaki is laced with a blend of sweet and meaty flavors, it lacks any sort of tenderness, a problem that much of the non-seafood meat suffers. There is one dish, however, that utterly disappoints customers. Tough and sorely lacking anything resembling pungency, the chicken teriyaki is outclassed by literally any other entree the menu has to offer.

Granted, this is no high-end gourmet diner, but it is a great place to get an exceptionally large portion of food for a fair price. That being said, the lack of service makes the sit-down experience a bit underwhelming. While the servers themselves are polite and knowledgeable, their presence is difficult to notice. Most customers would be better off coming here for take-out as opposed to dining in.

Rice Things is by no means authentic Japanese cuisine, but it would not be fair to call it Americanized either. Rather, the dishes are simplified from their traditional counterparts. This only adds to the uniqueness of Rice Things:a place where affordability is complemented by a charming simplicity that has locals coming back for more.