Tam Tam (140 University Ave.) comes from the owners of Tamarine, the more upscale Vietnamese restaurant located at the other end of University Avenue. It’s an attempt to be more casual, less expensive and "strictly Vietnamese" (no fusion dishes), co-owner Tanya Hartley said in a previous interview. She runs Tamarine, which opened in 2002, with her sister Tammy Huynh. Both were born in Vietnam; their family is from Vung Tau, a fishing village in South Vietnam.
Photo courtesy Tam Tam Restaurant.
The menu describes Tam Tam as "a regional Vietnamese restaurant created to introduce our guests to the heart and soul of traditional Vietnamese cooking. ... The light and balanced flavors of Northern Vietnam, the colorful dishes and bountiful spices of Central Vietnam, and the melange of fruits, vegetables and herbs of Southern Vietnam are all represented to showcase the regional diversity of Vietnam."
The menu identifies which region of Vietnam each dish comes from. Banh khot, crispy coconut rice flour pancakes stuffed with crab meat, uni and scallions, is from the South, while ca chien, fried whole branzino topped with sautéed onions, bell peppers, pineapple, dill, celery and tamarind sauce, is from the North. Tam Tam serves a Northern-style pho with slices of beef tenderloin and brisket and fried breadsticks on the side.
Tam Tam's beef pho with deep-fried breadsticks. Photo courtesy Tam Tam Restaurant.
Starters range in price from $8 to $12 and entrees, $19 to $28.
Drinks include a traditional chicory and espresso Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, mango limeade, tea, beer and wine.
Tam Tam will be open from 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant will open for lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) starting Monday, Sept. 30.
They hope to prove that "you don't have to go to downtown San Jose or East side San Jose to have real Vietnamese food," Hartley said.
Inside the Tam Tam dining room, which is decorated with paintings by Vietnamese artists. Photo courtesy Tam Tam Restaurant.