On a recent summer Tuesday when the University of Oregon campus was still relatively quiet, the delightfully-named Sunny Moon was busy with a lunch rush — not a bad problem to have for her new establishment, Izakaya Jinsei.
The izakaya opened just last May on the corner of 13th and Alder, an area of town that’s usually pretty sleepy whenever school is not in session.
Moon and her husband own Sushi Pure and Izakaya Oyazi, formerly in Eugene’s Market District. When Sushi Pure’s lease came up in the 5th Street Market, they decided to move the sushi restaurant across the street into Oyazi’s space in the Granary Building — where Jo Fed’s used to be, for all of you long-time Eugeneans. Then the couple rebranded Oyazi, renaming it Izakaya Jinsei, and moved it to campus.
Most of Oyazi’s customers were students anyway, Moon tells me when she finally gets a moment to sit down and catch her breath.
In Japan, izakayas are basically taverns, places to gather after work — or later — to have some small plate meals and enjoy a couple drinks, usually sake. Izakayas are small, Moon says, something she liked about Jinsei’s current location. Overall, Moon wanted people in her new space to feel like they’re really in Japan.
Moon puts her Japanese and Korean heritage in her cooking.
“I learned a lot of recipes from my grandmother that I want to do here,” she says. Miso tonkotsu ramen is a popular item on Jinsei’s lunch menu (pork bone, miso broth and fresh noodles, garnished with braised pork belly, egg, bamboo shoots, green beans, long green onion and nori). The broth is made daily. “When the broth is done, we’ve sold out of ramen,” Moon says.
You can also get a bento box, a rice bowl or a poke bowl. I was tempted by the poke after spotting it served at a nearby table, but I went with the ramen, a well-balanced bowl showcasing Jinsei’s signature noodles and a gentler take on bone broth which can sometimes be rich and overwhelming.
On the robust dinner menu there’s the hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail), and Moon is excited to present me her signature steamed dumplings (handmade chicken breast dumplings with Korean kimchi, tofu, chives bean sprouts, and garlic, served with a side of house made gyoza sauce).
The dumplings come on a bed of grilled cabbage, and Moon recommends wrapping the dumplings in the cabbage and dipping the whole thing in gyoza — a riff of sorts on Thai lettuce wraps.
I tried it, and she’s right.
Izakaya Jinsei is open 11 am to 11 pm Monday through Saturday at 1249 Alder Street in Eugene. For more information search Izakaya Jinsei on Facebook.