Fresh Japanese cuisine and great ambience in District 2. By Michael Tatarski. Photos by Linh Phanroy.

Located down a quiet residential street opposite Mekong Merchant in Thao Dien, Tama River has a much more relaxed setting than other Japanese restaurants clustered downtown. Inside, soft lighting and smooth jazz covers of classic rock hits create a laid-back ambience. Bottles of sake fill shelves along the wall behind the sushi bar, and unique Japanese paintings add a nice visual touch. Since opening four months ago, the restaurant has attracted a diverse clientele, from locals to expats.

The menu features a wide range of Japanese cuisine, including the obligatory sushi and sashimi options, as well as tempura, yakitori, hot pot, ramen, and soba and udon noodles. Prices range from VND 50,000 for starters to VND 400,000 for a hot pot. Sushi rolls, with options such as California, rainbow, and rock and roll, are between VND 50,000 to VND 150,000.

We began with the Sashimi moriawase (VND 439,000), a platter of 18 pieces of six types of fish. The colourful dish included tuna, salmon, white fish, northern clam tongue, sea urchin, scallops, grouper, and herring roe. All of the fish was fresh and clean, with the tuna and scallops the standouts. The sea urchin, known as uni, was somewhat bitter, providing the most unique flavour of the meal. This dish could be split between three or four people easily.

Next up was the rainbow roll (VND 169,000), which consisted of two pieces each of California, white fish, shrimp and salmon rolls. Topped with thin slices of avocado, the rolls were beautifully presented and, like the sashimi, very fresh. California rolls may not be truly Japanese, but they are one of my favourite types of sushi, and these didn’t disappoint.

We finished up with the seafood hot pot (VND 380,000). Mushrooms, shrimp, squid, fish and various vegetables were cooked together and served steaming hot. Once everything cooled down this provided a nice end to the meal, as it was light enough to leave us pleasantly full.

Though Tama River may not have the most convenient location for those who live in central districts, it is well worth the drive. Delivery service is available to those who live in District 2.

14E1 Thao Dien, D2 08 37 44 67 82
10am-2pm and 5-10pm, seven days