toshi\'s ramen
My wife and I recently went on a road trip to Portland, Oregon, and of course, I had to do some ramen research. After spending time surfing the web, I sadly announced that there were *zero* ramen shops in Portland (aspiring ramen entrepreneurs pay attention: there is no competition in Portland!). But wait…what’s this? “Guess what, dear…we’re making a stop at Eugene!” “Eugene? Where’s that?” “It’s about 2 hours south of Portland…and there’s a ramen house there!

As luck would have it, we arrived shortly before they closed for the afternoon. Phew. That’ll teach me to not call ahead. Unlike most of the other ramen houses we’ve been to, this one had a huge gas station-type sign on the corner (which makes sense considering it’s located on the site of a former gas station), and a fancy logo. From the outside, Toshi’s Ramen looks more like a trendy pub than a cozy ramen shop. Inside, the sparse, modern decor gives off a coffeehouse feel. And the menu…the glorious poster menu features pictures of every combination of ramen goodness available here, beckoning hungry eaters.

toshi\'s ramen
It’s fall in Oregon, and you can see the trees turn amber outside of Toshi’s Ramen.

While everything on the menu looked good, I ordered the regular shoyu ramen. None of that fancy nouveau ramen for this ramen purist, no sir! Oh, and the gyoza was a must, from what I’ve heard.

We could see chef and owner Toshi Ishibashi leap into action. According to an article in the Eugene Register-Guard, Toshi is the one and only. The paper quotes him as saying, “I’m a control freak. I can’t actually trust people, I can’t depend on somebody to cook my ramen.”

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The ramen came with the essential toppings…shinachiku, bean sprouts, green onions, two thickly cut slices of lean pork…plus green beans and corn (disclosure: I like corn. I just don’t like it on my ramen). I eagerly slurped a spoonful of soup and found it…unexpected. I took another sip…the soup tasted like a combination of a rich udon broth with a slight mixture of ponzu sauce. It was quite good, but not what I was expecting in a shoyu broth. Frankly, I’m divided: judged on its own merits, the soup is very good and hits the spot on a cold day. As a shoyu ramen soup, however, it falls flat. There’s a distinct mirin flavor that reinforces the udon-ness of the soup, and there’s not enough of the complex chicken and shoyu flavor I typically associate with shoyu ramen. The noodles were slightly thick (again, with a semblance to udon) and doughy, with a good texture, but lacked flavor. The pork had just a few streaks of fat, and was otherwise just decent.

Though Toshi’s ramen fell short of my expectations, the gyoza was definite the star of the house. The gyoza skin was delicately thin, almost transparent, and had a light texture. The filling had just the right amount of green onion and garlic to balance the pork and was absolutely delicious. I have to say these were among the best gyoza I’ve ever had.

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Toshi’s Ramen is the kind of place I want to like, and if it wasn’t about a thousand miles too far from where I live, I’d certainly go there often, if just for the gyoza and to try out the other ramen varieties on the menu. The fact that he’s been in business for over 8 years as the only chef is a testament to his dedication. Ishibashi-san, I applaud you.

Toshi’s shoyu ramen gets a 7. The gyoza gets a 9!

Toshi’s Ramen
1520 Pearl St
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 683-7833

12 thoughts on “ramen rating: toshi’s ramen – eugene, or”

  1. On a side note, I just have to add how pleased (freaked out? haha) I am to announce we have a psychic among our readers. Just yesterday, as I started outlining this review, a reader named “Gabe” e-mailed me, telling me to check out Toshi’s. What are the odds?!

    Thanks Gabe!

  2. Thanks Andy. I did read about Biwa before I went up there, but I tend to prefer “true” ramenyas vs Japanese restaurants that just happen to serve ramen. And unfortunately, I was only in Portland for a short time and had to give Hiroshi sushi a try (the wild salmon sushi was amazing) so I didn’t get a chance to try Biwa. I’ll give it a try next time I’m up there though!

  3. Hakatamon, an udon-ya in the Uwajimaya market in Beaverton, recently expanded its repertoire to include ramen. Also, the recently opened Tanuki is planning to add ramen to its lineup, which will probably be in an Okinawan style if the rest of the menu is any indication.

  4. Aye… to my knowledge there are no “pure” ramen lairs in Portland (like one can find in San Francisco, LA, or Seattle) which is bizarre given the downtown university students that would thrive on it.

    Most of the Japanese restaurants in Portland serve some kind of Ramen (but usually only one or two varieties).

    Biwa is a pretty decent place (also of note is the outstanding small hole-in-the-wall Toshi’s Restaurant over on 185th off of Hwy 26 in Beaverton). Koji Osakaya isn’t bad either.

    But… no pure ramen houses (nor japanese-style private booth karaoke either though someone appears to be trying to open one this month near the 23rd Street eclectic shopping district).

    Given the rather foodie nature of Portland – this lack is rather odd.

  5. Vexx, thanks for the info. I agree that it does seem like a food-lovers paradise like Portland should have more ramenyas. The next time I’m up in the area, I’ll give Biwa and Koji Osakaya a try!

  6. I love this place, I really wish Portland had it’s own little ‘Toshi’s Ramen’

  7. Has anyone tried “Noodle Me” in Beaverton. I found the Miso Ramen to be excellent!
    Unfortunatly, I now live in the Phoenix area, and I cannot find a bowl of ramen, anywhere. If anyone knows of a place……

    1. Cherry Blossom in Phoenix has good not great Ramen. It’s located on Camelback and 10th St. in a small strip mall…

  8. There is a restaurant in Portland that isn’t purely ramen but does serve it. It’s called The Happy Bowl on 5th and Salmon downtown. You can even take a Green/Yellow line max to stop about a block away. I love the ramen soup and hope to go back sometime.

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