TNT Diner

Sushi Tama: Reliable sushi for affordable prices

Pictured here: Tama's Dragon roll, salmon hand roll, ika ume shiso roll, spicy tuna roll. Also pictured, salmon and tuna nigiri.

Here is the fourth of seven installments about South Sound maki sushi.

Sushi Tama

Where: 3919 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma; 253-761-1014

Price: $ (Entrees under $14)

Sushi Tama seems one of those mysterious restaurants that looks deserted often enough that one wonders if they're still in business. Sushi Tama may not do the bustling business of TwoKoi or Sushi Town, but the Sixth Avenue restaurant does have a steady stream of customers and fans aplenty. Ask an experienced sushi eater around town and they'll probably tell you they've feasted on Tama's sushi.

Tama's maki menu of about 20 rolls is very straightforward, much like the rest of Sushi Tama. Sushi newcomers will find the restaurant relaxed and accessible; small, but inviting; the sushi reliable and good. It's the kind of place where you take your co-workers for a quick and quiet business lunch, or the family for a laid-back, inexpensive dinner. For the quality of ingredients and the amount of fish in each roll, Sushi Tama is a great value for your sushi dollar, too.

The sushi menu lacks lengthy descriptions, so sushi newcomers may need direction from a server. The service is friendly and knowledgeable and food arrives quickly (this is a great place to take squirmy kids, you'll be in and out fairly fast).

The maki list is typical of what you'd find at a traditional Japanese restaurant. You won't find rolls with mango or bananas. And you won't find pastel colored sauces drizzled in zigzag patterns or vertical tower presentations. But you will find tekka maki (tuna) and California rolls, among other standard maki offerings. Sushi is served simply on trays. It's a no frills kind of sushi place, after all.

The ika ume shiso ($5.29) is a chewy-sweet-pungent combination of squid, plum sauce and shiso leaf. The spicy tuna roll ($5.89) combines meaty strips of tuna with a spicy sauce that is zippy without being overbearing. A Dragon roll ($12.89) was monstrous in size and chock full of shrimp and crab and covered with a heaping portion of barbecued eel on top.

Note: Real crab can be substituted in place of the fake stuff for $1.75 (order it, you'll be glad you did).

The tempura ($8.59) appetizer is worth mentioning at Tama. It's one of the best in town – with 12 kinds of vegetables, battered and quickly fried and deliciously light and crispy.

This is one of several articles in a series about South Sound maki. All the reviews: TwoKoi , Gari of Sushi, Trapper’s/Sushi Town , Sushi Tama , Happy Bento , Sapporo