only been in Ha Noi for a couple of weeks, but already he's found love. With its laid-back family feel, mountains of sumptuous sushi and stunning presentation, it's easy to see how Sumo Sushi stole his heart. And his stomach.
|Old meets bold: Sumo Sushi Bar combines modern decor with traditional Japanese cooking. — VNS Photos
Nestled amid the chaos of Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, the Sumo Sushi Bar has everything you can expect from a modern Japanese restaurant, and more.
With a loyal clientele of locals and foreigners, Sumo Sushi came highly recommended on the list of things I "had to experience" in Ha Noi. I had barely been on Vietnamese soil a month before I began to crave good Japanese food, so when a friend invited me to go - I was pushing him out the door before he could finish the words "all you can eat".
Sumo Sushi Bar is part of a large family of popular restaurants based around the capital city. Yet to visit its famous brothers and sisters Kichi Kichi, Ashima and Sumo BBQ, I was told I could expect a "satisfying meal" and "good value".
At street view, Sumo Sushi immediately stands out in a modern, triple-storey complex. Whilst its not the easiest place to get to, there was plenty of signage and a generous supply of parking for the lunchtime rush.
Inside, we were greeted with nothing but the warmest of Japanese hospitality - more akin to a host family than a restaurant. A smiling host dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono led us to a table, while wait staff and chefs alike chorused in unison as they greeted us in Japanese.
Sumo Sushi is an intriguing mix of the old and the new. The modern decor of timber, exposed brick and graffiti, complement the traditional elements of Japanese cooking and hospitality. Chefs and hostesses dress in traditional Japanese costume and waiters practice traditional Japanese etiquette; making for an authentic dining experience.
We were led through the ground floor where patrons feasted on a range of 'cold foods' (fresh oysters, spicy tuna hand rolls and sashimi) and up a staircase to the first landing. As we'd arrived during peak lunch hour the second level was heaving with a crowd of business people, couples, families and tourists.
|Shell shock: Lime is the perfect addition to the fresh oysters available in the restaurant's 'Sakura' and 'Kiku' buffet options.
Imported meats sizzled on hot plates, people were laughing and families watched as waiters grilled American chuck steak on a bed of white hot coals. Even though it was busy, the vibe was relaxed, unpretentious and fun.
Shortly after taking our seats, a security guard appeared at our table. Smiling, he reached into his pocket and produced the phone I'd absent mindedly left in the sleeve of my scooter. Many reading this review will know this is not how the "I left my phone in my scooter" anecdote typically ends. But this brings home an important point about Sumo Sushi Bar - they like taking care of their customers.
There are two main options for the 'all you can eat' menu. The slightly more modest Sakura Buffet will set you back VND359,000 and entitle you to everything on the menu except the barbeque. Never to shy away from a barbeque, we opted for the slightly more expensive Kiku Buffet (priced at VND399,000 pp) which included everything on the menu - and it's important to say, it isn't short.
Like all bonafide 'all you can eat' enthusiasts we chose to pace ourselves; tuna and sashimi to start, followed by freshly made sushi, hand-rolls, fresh oysters, miso and chicken salad with a tomato sesame sauce.
The sushi was made fresh to order and arrived faster than we could eat it. The salmon melted; the oysters garnished with lime, were silky and salty; and the salad was fresh.
Next, fried specialties including tempura, chicken karaage and croquettes appeared at our request. The star of this lineup though, was undoubtedly the 'Pork short plate with French beans'; a stunning combination of beans wrapped in sizzling bacon and dipped in a divine teriyaki sauce.
|Meaty treat: American chuck steak sizzles over white hot coals as a waiter cooks each piece to perfection. — VNS Photos
However, coming here and not feasting on the buffet of fresh meats cooked before your eyes on a custom barbeque built into your table, is practically a capital offence.
Salivating, we watched as our dutiful waiter grilled each piece of 'American beef short rib' and 'Australian beef chuck roll' to perfection and as we sampled the smoky flavours of barbecued steak, balanced perfectly by a sweet sesame dipping sauce, it was clear this wouldn't be our last visit. And it wasn't.
Sinuses packed with meat, fish and beer, we were about to throw in the towel, relenting only for a modest serving of black sticky rice served with yoghurt - a perfect end to the meal.
By this point, we had eaten a mountain of food in under 45 minutes, which brings me to the downside - if there is one. Having too many choices at an 'all you can eat' venue often leads to a psychological condition I like to call "fear of the uneaten" and you'll probably end up ordering WAY too much food.
But, when in Rome... right?
Including drinks your meal can easily have you reaching for a VND500,000 note, but the quality and range of freshly made food you can eat for that price is worth it.
If price is really a factor, think about this - you probably won't need to eat for a few days afterwards. — VNS
Sumo Sushi Bar
Address: 16 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi
Opening Hours: 11am-9.30pm
Comment: Modern buffet dishes serve up Japanese favourites