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Japan: Please don’t crumble on me now. I want to visit Japan one day and try some real, authentic Japanese food. I’m sending my love and best wishes that way. This is only the beginning: First an earthquake, then a tsunami, aftershocks, fires, and then another earthquake, followed by more aftershocks. Even when all these natural disasters end, many people will be left without family members, homes, warmth and food. I cannot imagine how scary it would be to try to outrun gigantic waves, while watching it swallow up your house.

We should do what we can to help people in Japan – Huffingtonpost posted an article on How to Help Japan: Earthquake Relief Options (click to see options). Please do help if you can- this could be us. $10 might not be much to us, but could really help out over there.

March 11, 2011: Widespread destruction in Japan from 8.9 earthquake and tsunami

Picture from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/11/how-to-help-japan-earthquake-relief_n_834484.html

Although, I may not be able to try authentic Japanese food right now, there is a decent Japanese restaurant near the University of Oregon’s campus that suits my Japanese food craving.

Overall Restaurant Rating – Rating: 3 ½ out of 5Miso (686 E 13th Ave, 97401) is definitely not some high-quality sushi place and it’s sushi selection is somewhat limited, but it is a good bang for the buck. The portion sizes are very generous. I can never finish my meals there, and always have leftovers.

What we ordered:

Miso's Teriyaki Bowl: Teriyaki chicken and rice - only $3.95

Teriyaki bowl – Rating: 4/5 – White rice and teriyaki chicken. The rice was very good and moist, and so was the chicken. There is a lot of food in that little bowl they serve! The best part is it’s only $3.95! So if you ever have $4 and you want some food that will fill you up, this is what you need to order.

Teriyaki beef combo: Teriyaki beef, two scoops of white rice and a salad.

Teriyaki beef combo – Rating: 4/5 – The beef is cooked well and drenched in teriyaki sauce. It comes with two scoops of rice and a fresh salad. I loved the salad; the lettuce was so crispy! I’m not sure what the dressing was though; it might have been some sort of sweeten vinegar. All of this was only $6.50.

Shrimp Tempura Roll (left), California Crunch Roll (right)

Shrimp Tempura Roll – Rating 3/5 – Tempura shrimp, imitation crab, cucumber and avocado – $5.95.  This was okay, nothing too special. They covered the sushi with teriyaki sauce, so if you don’t eat it right away, the roll will become less crunchy. I would actually ask them to hold the sauce because they have the sauce bottle available, so you can add some if you wanted later.

Crunch California Roll – Rating: 3/5 – Imitation crab, cucumber, avocado and tempura crunch bits – $3.50. It was the basic California roll, but there wasn’t really a crunch because they drenched the roll in teriyaki sauce so the crunch turned soggy.

Spicy Crunch Roll (Not pictured)– Rating: 2/5 – Spicy tuna, cucumber, and tempura crunch bits – $6.50. The roll had a good spice to it, but the raw tuna was a bit too rich.

Conclusions: Miso loves their teriyaki sauce and likes to drench everything they serve in it. So my advice is to tell them to hold the sauce, then you can add your own. If you like pickled ginger, they have self-serve pickled ginger as well. Like many places on camps, you order at the counter, grab your own utensils and bus your own table. They bring your food to you. One thing that should be improved about the restaurant is that you can’t customize your order. I would love it if I could switch my teriyaki chicken bowl with chicken Katsu instead, but they said no. I’m not sure why they would say no to a paying customer, but okay.

I couldn’t find a copy of Miso’s menu online, but there are other reviews of Miso’s dishes on Urbanspoon:

Miso on UrbanspoonHappy eating my fellow foodies and keep praying for Japan!

Overall Restaurant – Rating: 3/5. As a college student I eat a lot of Top Ramen. Honestly, the ramen I tried at Toshi’s Ramen (1520 Pearl St. 97401) didn’t taste much different from what I can make at home. Unless someone points out a dish I MUST try from there, I probably won’t be back anytime soon. I might go there if I completely run out of Top Ramen at home and really feel like paying $7.50 for some. I’m not giving the restaurant lower than a 3 because they at least have some ingredients that an average person wouldn’t have at home to add to their ramen.

Toshi’s menu is extremely overwhelming. It’s difficult to figure out where to start if it’s your first time! However, the cashier was more than happy to explain how the menu works:

First, there are three soup bases to choose from:
Sho-yu: Soy sauce based
Miso: Soybean paste based – this is the most popular soup base, she noted.
Shio: Salt based

Once you choose your soup base, you choose what you want in your ramen:

It starts with plain: Ramen noodles with topped with green onions and bean sprouts.
Then the original: Green onions, bean sprout, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans and marinated sliced pork.
After that, the choices are everything in original with one or two more ingredients added to it. The price increases according to what you add to it.

What we ordered:

Toshi's Miso Wakame: Miso soup with seaweed, green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork.

Miso Wakame – Rating: 2/5 – Soybean based soup with seaweed and everything in the orginal (green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork). I liked the seaweed and corn in my ramen, but the broth was overly salted. I generally like my miso soup a little more bland. I also like my miso soup with tofu and have the tofu soak up the tasty soup, but tofu wasn’t even an option as an add-in on the menu. The pork slice had a little bit too much fat on it.  I did however, like the ramen noodles – they were cooked al dente; I think the ramen noodles are actually made there from scratch.

If I wanted to make something like this at home, I would use Top Ramen and crack an egg in it. I’d watch the noodles to make sure they are cooked al dente and add all those ingredients in the ramen. I learned from my Miso Wakame that I like corn in my ramen so I would add that.

Toshi's Shoyu Butter: Soy sauce soup with butter, green onions, bean sprouts, corn, bamboo shoots, green beans, and marinated sliced pork.

Shoyu Butter – Rating: 3/5 – Soy sauce based soup with original ingredients and BUTTER. I liked this soup based a lot better than the miso. I think it actually had a lot to do with the butter. I was turned off by the idea of a whole stick of butter in the soup, but it actually made a big difference in taste. They had a few seasonings on the table you could add to your soup. There was a shaker with red seasoning in it, which I’m guessing is paprika. My friend added a lot of it to her soup and it made it taste a lot better.

If I wanted to make something like this at home, I would cook ramen noodles as usual, but use only half of the seasoning and add 2 tablespoon of soy sauce. Then I’d add 1/3 cup of butter and any other ingredients, like vegetables or meat I’d like. I’m sure I’d get the same affect as the Shoyu Butter ramen bowl.

If you end up going there, I’ve heard the Gyoza (pork & veggies potstickers) and the Cha-han (fried rice served with a side of soup) is good to try. The gyoza is little pricey for 6 potstickers though,  they’re $4. Those are two items I’d try next time if I come back. If you’re ordering ramen, I’d stick with the shoyu soup and have butter be one of the ingredients.

Toshi’s Ramen doesn’t have a fully active website, but urbanspoon has menus, reviews and other information for the place:
Toshi's Ramen on UrbanspoonHappy eating my fellow foodies!

Overall Restaurant – Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 – If you search Sweet Life Patisserie (755 Monroe Street, 97402) on Google, you’ll find an average rating of 4 ½ stars with 386 reviews. For the most part, I agree. I love the place and its atmosphere. I make a trip to Sweet Life with my friends almost once a month. Yes, I have a HUGE sweet tooth; I’ve probably been there at least 15 times since I’ve lived in Eugene. It’s a great place to chill with friends. I can’t exactly give the place 5 stars because I’ve had more fail desserts than winners. They have so many desserts and treats to choose from, it’s hard to figure out which one to choose. After going there so many times, I’ve learned that there are definitely some desserts you should just avoid ordering.

What I’ve tried:

Drinks

Mixed berry smoothie

Mixed berry smoothie – Rating: 2/5 – It tasted like a margarita without the alcohol. Okay, so a virgin mixed berry smoothie/margarita should be decent, right? Nope. It tasted like watered down fruit juice with an off-after taste.

Raspberry cremosa – Rating: 4/5 – Loved the cremosa and the raspberry taste, but I’d avoid sweet drinks with sweet desserts. It’s a sweetness overload! Stick with water or milk.

Desserts

Lemon bar

Lemon bar – Rating: 5/5 – If you like lemon bars (love it or hate it type of dessert), then this is a good lemon bar to try. The tart taste of the lemon bar is very well- balanced with a good amount of confectioner’s sugar. Yum.

Pumpkin cookie

Pumpkin cookie with frosting – Rating: 3/5 – Pumpkin desserts are kind of iffy to me. The pumpkin cookie was slightly too sweet and had a tad bit of nutmeg spice.

Red velvet cupcake – Rating: 2/5 – I read this article discussing the necessities of an authentic red velvet cake and the red velvet cupcake at Sweet Life didn’t seem to have any of the listed components, besides being red. The frosting was definitely not cream cheese.

Strawberries-topped cheesecake

Strawberries-topped cheesecake – Rating: 4/5 – Rich, a tad bit heavy but the strawberry topping balances the richness of the cheesecake.

Chocolate cream pie

Chocolate cream pie – Rating: 1/5 – No, don’t do it. What happened? The chocolate custard was way bitter, but had no taste of chocolate. It tasted more like cheap coffee ground. I am a chocoholic, but the chocolate custard just did not taste like chocolate. I was thoroughly disappointed. I took three bites hoping it’d start to taste better, but just ended up taking home the majority of the slice hoping to fix it somehow.

Tiramisu – Rating: 2/5 – Their Tiramisu tastes funny. I’ve had better Tiramisu from Fred Meyer’s, Safeway or even Cash N’ Carry’s frozen cake.

Cream cheese brownie

Cream cheese brownie – Rating: 5/5 – Oh my gosh, yum. My go-to dessert. So rich and so decadent. It totally satisfies my sweet tooth. My friends had theirs heated to make it even better. Warm or not, the brownie is delicious either way!

Brownie sundae

Brownie sundae – Rating: 5/5 – I saved the best for last. I’ve been to Sweet Life so many times, but once I discovered this dessert, I have not been able to try anything else. You can create your own brownie sundae by picking your choice of brownie and topping it with your choice of gelato. My favorite all-time combination: cream cheese brownie topped with dark Venezuelan chocolate. The turtle brownie topped with Tahitian vanilla gelato is amazing too. Describing this makes me want some right now. Yum!

Overall, Sweet Life is a great place to go to satisfy your sweet tooth, but be aware that not everything they offer will do the trick!

Check out Sweet Life Patisserie’s website for their menu and other information: http://www.sweetlifedesserts.com/

Here is urbanspoon’s reviews of Sweet Life:

Sweet Life Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Happy eating!

Overall Restaurant – Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 – Success! Finally found a bomb hot wings joint in Eugene. Check out their Facebook: Hot Mama’s Wings’ Facebook.

Hot Mama’s Wings (420 West 13th Avenue, 97401) just opened yesterday and you can already find a ton of information about the hot, new restaurant on the Internet. Big ups to them for using social media as a marketing tool! Instead of going into details about the whole restaurant, I’ll just recommend to you what to order from there. If you’re interested in learning more about the restaurant, you can check out Oregon Daily Emerald’s article or Eugene Weekly’s article on the joint. I’ll just eat there and tell you what’s good.

So first off, I got to tell you: Their wings are meaty. This is a good thing. I had wings at the other hot wings joint near campus last weekend and those were literally just bones. Those tasted like frozen wings you buy at the grocery store and reheat them in the microwave.

The wings at Hot Mama’s however, are real, meaty chicken wings.

Here’s what my friends and I tried today:

Starters:

Crispy, brown French fries

French fries – Rating: 5/5 – They were brown, but crispy. The color of the French fries threw me off at first, but dang, they were good. They crunch in your mouth.

Jalapeno Poppers - Jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon

Jalapeno poppers – Rating: 3/5 – Hollowed out peppers, stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon. The pepper-filled cream cheese was a bit rich for my taste. I ended up just eating the bacon wrap.

Tater tots – Rating: 4/5 – Crispy tater tots, good, but could have used more seasoning.

Main course:

Wings – Rating: 5/5 – Meaty & crispy. The best part: Not messy. It’s like they cooked the sauce into the wings. It’s not your usual deep-fried wings smothered in sauce. You get the flavors when you bite into the wings without having your face and hands covered in sauce. They offered tempeh, grilled and fried wings. We all went with the fried.

Upper left: Chipotle Bourbon, Upper right: Jalapeno Poppers, Middle: Hot

Flavors of wings we tried (I don’t have the exact flavor names. I made the mistake of not taking a picture of the menu):

Hot – Rating: 3/5 – Not too flavorful, but spicy. Have some fun, order something that’s spicy and flavorful.

Medium – Rating: 4/5 – Not too flavorful, but a good amount of spicy for those who cannot handle hot.

BBQ – Rating: 4/5 – Plain, standard BBQ flavor, as expect. Maybe they should offer Honey BBQ also so it’s not as standard.

Cilantro Lime – Rating: 3/5 – The flavor of the cilantro did not come out, neither did the lime. It just tasted like a piece of fried chicken.

Root-beer Glazed – Rating: 5/5 – The table’s first favorite. A tad bit sweet, a tad bit spicy and a tad bit salty, perfecto. You can taste that spicy, sweet root beer flavor. Awesome! *Must try!

Pineapple – Ratings: 3/5 – More like limey than pineapple-y? A little bit too tangy of a flavor for wings.

Chipotle Bourbon – Rating 5/5 – My table’s second favorite. Extremely spicy and flavorful at the same time. *Must try!

All of us ordered 9 wings for $8.50 and chose three different flavors. Appetizers were about $4 and drinks were $2. They had many other choices of food besides wings, but we went for the wings. I’ll post a copy of the menu for prices and choices as soon as I get my hands on one. Post comments if you tried anything else from the restaurant that I should review! I’ll definitely be back there soon.

Check out urbanspoon’s rating of Hot Mama’s Wings:

Hot Mama's Wings on Urbanspoon

Happy eating!


Blogger Linda Lam

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