Restaurant Review #123: Famima!!, Santa Monica

According to Famima's napkins and bags, "Easy is good. Easy with all the amenities is rare. At Famima, every day becomes a better, richer experience. Simplicity in design, superior products and personalized customer care is what life should be all about."

Should I get into all of the things I take issue with in their mission statement? Why not?

Simplicity in design: First of all, while the store looks lovely, simplicity should include functionality. The store's design is inefficient when it comes to moving about the store and paying for your food.

Superior products: I liked my curry chicken bun quite a bit (more on the food to follow), but the chicken in the steamed chicken and mushroom bun bordered on gross. I also considered getting the sushi, but declined for three reasons: rolls with lettuce in them, carrots cut into unnatural round matchsticks, and an unidentifiable brown ingredient in one of the veggie rolls (some kind of pickle, perhaps?).

Personalized customer care: What? Where? Do I need personalized care for grab-and-go food? And while there was nothing wrong with my cashier, there was nothing special about him, either.

Finally, I hope my life is about more than superior products and simplicity in design. But hey, this is America.

Okay. So here's the deal. Walk into Famima. Be confused because you thought it was a lunch to-go restaurant of some sort, but all you see are school supplies, gum, and refrigerated stuff. Walk by the counter. Ponder the absence of menus behind the counter. Wonder if they have any real food to order. Note the plethora of cigarette boxes. Are they advocating the consumption of nicotine sticks in lieu of lunch?

There are actually just a couple of hot food items, and they come from display cases by the registers. The chicken curry buns are only $1.75 and they are yummy. Where else can I get hot food so cheaply on the Promenade? (Wetzel's, okay, maybe, but that's just bread.) Since the buns are small (about the size of your hand, fingers and all), you can either eat one as a somewhat nutritious snack, or eat 3-5 for a meal. I guess at the 3-5 mark you aren't really saving money anymore, but it's a nice break from the corporate coffee shop's refrigerated sandwiches. The buns have flaky breadcrumbs on the outside, like curry chicken.

Other hot selections include soup (one soup each day, depending on the day of the week, listed on a chart behind the registers), more breadcrumb-coated things, and assorted steamed buns ($1.50), including char-shu (barbecued pork) and the chicken and mushroom bun that I ordered. I wasn't very happy with it, since the filling kind of like school cafeteria food and the chicken was watery and fatty (the curry bun didn't suffer from the same problem). For those of you not familiar with steamed buns, they are completely white since they haven't been baked, making them look raw, especially when they're still in the display case. Rest assured that they are cooked, and the bun part has a consistency similar to Wonder Bread (or pan Bimbo), except that it sticks to your teeth more.

Famima also sells a variety of sushi rolls and their kin, an assortment of French-influenced Japanese desserts, and treats like Pocky and bottled drinks usually only seen at Japanese grocery stores or 99 Ranch. For bringing all of these items closer to the mainstream, I'll allow Famima!! to keep their exclamation points.

And they're right about the easy part--I picked out my food and paid in 5-10 minutes. I went on a rainy day, so it's hard to tell what real lunchtime traffic will look like, but there was barely any line, though the place seemed popular.

Since I was in a hurry, I wasn't able to really examine or absorb everything that the store sells. After visiting the website, I discovered that my idea of what Famima!! was supposed to be was off. Rather than a lunch-to-go spot, it's really more of an upscale convenience store. Though not necessarily all it hypes itself up to be, Famima is not a bad stop for a cheap to-go lunch.

1348 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Open daily 6am-2am


eatdrinknbmerry said...

I love this store. If you get a chance, checkout the one in West Hollywood - much better than the 3rd Street Promenade. I noticed that they also opened one on Westwood/Ohio near UCLA. Something about this plae that makes me wanna spend my money. Is it the packaging? Is it the luxury of having them heat up the panini sandwiches? I definitely like their sushi, really isn't that bad.

rick james said...

hi foodie,

ya know, everytime i walk into a japanese con-beni store i always walk out with some kinda dark chocolate, a wafer type snack and garden Pretz

why is this?

rick james said...

hi foodie,

ya know, everytime i walk into a japanese con-beni store i always walk out with some kinda dark chocolate, a wafer type snack and garden Pretz

why is this?

melis said...

oh yes, and what is the deal about the TWO!! exclamation marks? The banality of it turns off my appetite even before I go in. Just like many third rate novels, this store displays too many exclamation marks, but no voice (read style and quality) of its own.